Saturday 19 November 2016

Asteroid 2016 VQ passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2016 VQ passed by the Earth at a distance of 871 600 km (2.53 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, 0.65% of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly after 10.20 am GMT on Friday 11 November 2016. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though had it done so it would have presented no threat. 2016 VQ has an estimated equivalent diameter of 12-38 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 12-38 m in diameter), and an object of this size would be expected to explode in an airburst (an explosion caused by superheating from friction with the Earth's atmosphere, which is greater than that caused by simply falling, due to the orbital momentum of the asteroid) in the atmosphere between 30 and 12 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface. 
The calculated orbit of 2016 VQ. Minor Planet Center.
2016 VQ was discovered on 2 November 2016 (nine days after its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon Survey at the Steward Observatory on Mount Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The designation 2016 VQ implies that the asteroid was the 16th object (object Q) discovered in the first half of November 2016 (period 2016 V).
2016 VQ is calculated to have a 1424 day orbital period and an elliptical orbit tilted at an angle of 2.66° to the plain of the Solar System that takes it from 0.85 AU from the Sun (i.e. 85% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 4.11 AU from the Sun (i.e. 411% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, more than twice 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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