Tuesday 15 October 2019

Asteroid 2019 TW1 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2019 TW1 passed by the Earth at a distance of about 565 800 km (1.47 times the average  distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 0.38% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly before 7.10 am GMT on Tuesday 8 October 2019. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though were it to do so it would not have presented a significant threat. 2019 TW1 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 5-16 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 5-16 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 40 and 25 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface.

The current position and orbit of 2019 TW1. Gideon van Buitenen.

2019 TW1 was discovered on 5 October 2019 (three days before its closest encounter with 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 2019 TW1 implies that the asteroid was the 46th object (asteroid X8 - 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 W1 = 22 + (24 X 1) = 46) discovered in the first half of October 2019 (period 2010 T).

2019 TW1 has a 912 day orbital period and an eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 8.02° to the plane of the Solar System, which takes it from 0.88 AU from the Sun (i.e. 88% of he average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 2.80 AU from the Sun (i.e. 280% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, and further from the Sun as 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).  

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