Saturday 29 June 2019

Asteroid (441987) 2010 NY65 passes the Earth.

Asteroid (441987) 2010 NY65  passed by the Earth at a distance of about 2 934 000 km (7.64 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 1.96% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly before 5.00 pm GMT on Monday 24 June 2019. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though were it to do so it would have presented a significant threat. (441987) 2010 NY65 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 94-300 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 94-300 m in diameter), and an object at the upper end of this range would be predicted to be capable of passing through the Earth's atmosphere relatively intact, impacting the ground directly with an explosion that would be about 69 000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. Such an impact would result in an impact crater over 4.5 km in diameter and devastation on a global scale, as well as climatic effects that would last years or even decades.

The calculated orbit of (441987) 2010 NY65. JPL Small Body Database.

(441987) 2010 NY65 was discovered on 14 July 2010 by the  Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer satellite. The designation 2010 NY65 implies that the asteroid was the 1584th object (asteroid Y65 - in numbering asteroids the letters A-Y, excluding I, are assigned numbers from 1 to 24, with a number added to the end each time the alphabet is ended, so that A = 1, A1 = 25, A2 = 49, etc., which means that Y65 = 24 + (24 X 65) = 1584) discovered in the first half of July 2010 (period 2010 N), while the longer designation (441987) indicates that it was the 441 987th asteroid discovered overall (asteroids are not given this longer designation immediately, to ensure that numbered objects are genuine asteroids that have not been previously described).  

(441987) 2010 NY65 has a 364 day orbital period, with an elliptical orbit tilted at an angle of 11.7° to the plain of the Solar System which takes in to 0.62 AU from the Sun (62% of the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, and slightly less than the distance at which Venus orbits the Sun) and out to 1.36 AU (36% further away from the Sun than the Earth). This means that close encounters between the asteroid and Earth are fairly common, with the last thought to have happened in June lat year (2018) and the next predicted in June next year (2020). Although it does cross the Earth's orbit and is briefly further from the Sun on each cycle, 2019 EW1 spends most of its time closer to the Sun than we are, and is therefore classified as an Aten Group Asteroid. This also means that the asteroid has occasional close encounters with the planet Venus, with the last calculated to have occurred in March 2007, and the next predicted for May next year. As an asteroid probably larger than 150 m in diameter that occasionally comes within 0.05 AU of the Earth, (441987) 2010 NY65 is also classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid.
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