Wednesday 30 May 2018

Asteroid 2018 KW1 passes the Earth,

Asteroid 2018 KW1 passed by the Earth at a distance of about 149 100 km (0.39 times the average  distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 0.001% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly before midday GMT on Tuesday 22 May 2018. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though were it to do so it would not have presented a significant threat. 2018 KW1 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 2-6 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 2-6 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 more than 40 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface.

 The calculated orbit of 2018 KW1. Minor Planet Center.
2018 KW1 was discovered on 22 May 2018 (the day of 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 2018 KW1 implies that the asteroid was the 47th object (object W1) discovered in the second half of May 2018 (period 2018 K). 

2018 KW1 has an 631 day orbital period and an eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 7.54° to the plane of the Solar System, which takes it from 0.99 AU from the Sun (i.e. 99% of he average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 1.89 AU from the Sun (i.e. 189% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, and further from the Sun than the planet Mars). 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). This means that close encounters between the asteroid and Earth are extremely common, with the last having occurred in August 2011 and the next predicted in April 2027.

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