Friday 8 November 2013

Asteroid 2013 VN5 passes the Earth - then gets discovered.

Asteroid 2013 VN5 passed the Earth at a distance of 501 900 km (a little over 1.3 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon), slightly after 11.10 pm GMT on Sunday 3 November 2013. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, and if it had of done it would have presented little risk. 2013 VN5 is estimated to be between 6 and 20 m in diameter, and an object of this size would be expected to break up in the atmosphere somewhere between 37 and 22 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface.

The calculated orbit of 2013 VN5. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

2013 VN5 was discovered on 6 November 2013 (three days after its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Hawaii's PANSTARRS telescope on Mount Haleakala. The designation 2013 VN5 implies that it was the 138th asteroid discovered in the first two weeks of November 2013 (period 2013 V).

2013 VN5 has a 2.3 year orbital period and an eccentric orbit inclined to the plane of the Solar System that takes it from 0.92 AU from the Sun (i.e. 92% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 2.57 AU from the Sun (i.e. 257% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, considerably more than the distance at which the planet Mars orbits the Sun). It is therefore classed as an Apollo Group Asteroid (an asteroid that is on average further from the Sun than the Earth, but which does get closer). 

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