Monday 27 July 2020

Asteroid (8014) 1990 MF passes the Earth.

Asteroid (8014) 1990 MF passed by the Earth at a distance of about 8 182 000 km (21.3 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 5.47% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly before 11.10 pm GMT on Thursday 23 July 2020. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though were it to do so it would not have presented a significant threat. (8014) 1990 MF has an estimated equivalent diameter of 340-1100 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 340-1100 m in diameter), and an object of this size 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 90 000-1 350 000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. Such an impact would result in an impact crater roughly 5-15 km in diameter and devastation on a global scale, as well as climatic effects that would last decades or even centuries.

The orbit of (8014) 1990 MF, and its current position. JPL Small Body Database.

(8014) 1990 MF was discovered on 26 June 1990 (the day of its closest approach to the Earth) by the Zwicky Transient Facility at Palomar Observatory in California. The designation 1990 MF implies that it was the sixth asteroid (asteroid W - 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 F = 6) discovered in the Second half of June 1990 (period 1990 M - the year being split into 24 half-months represented by the letters A-Y, with I being excluded), while the designation 8014 implies that it was 8014th asteroid ever discovered (asteroids are not given this longer designation immediately to avoid naming double or false sightings).

(8014) 1990 MF has a 843 day (2.31 year) orbital period, with an elliptical orbit tilted at an angle of 1.87° to the plain of the Solar System which takes in to 0.95 AU from the Sun (95% of the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) and out to 2.54 AU (254% of the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, and comsiderably outside the orbit of the planet Mars). This means that close encounters between the asteroid and Earth are fairly common, with the last thought to have happened in Octpber 2013 and the next predicted in June 2027. 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). As an asteroid probably larger than 150 m in diameter that occasionally comes within 0.05 AU of the Earth,(8014) 1990 MF is also classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. (8014) 1990 MF also has occasional close encounters with the planets Mars, which it last came close to in September 2008 and is next predicted to pass in September 2041.

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