Saturday 4 June 2022

Asteroid 2022 KQ5 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2022 KQ5 passed by the Earth at velocity of about 7.31 km per second and a distance of about 4400 km (0.11 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 0.03% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is roughly 100 times the distance at which the International Space Station orbits the Earth), at about 5.40 pm on Saturday 30 May 2022. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though were it to do so it would not have presented a significant threat. 2022 KQ5 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 3-9 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 3-9 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) more than 35 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface.

The relative positions of 2022 KQ5 and the Earth on at 6.00 pm on Saturday 30 May 2022. JPL Small Body Database.

2022 KQ5 was discovered on 30 May 2022 (the day of its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey, which is located in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The designation 2022 KQ5 implies that it was the 141st asteroid (object Q5 - in numbering asteroids the letters A-Y, excluding I, are assigned numbers from 1 to 25, with a number added to the end each time the alphabet is ended so that A = 1, A1 = 26, A2 = 51, etc., which means that Q5 = (25 x 5) + 16 = 141) discovered in the second half of May 2022 (period 2022 K - the year being split into 24 half-months represented by the letters A-Y, with I being excluded).

The orbit and current position of 2022 KQ5. The Sky Live 3D Solar System Simulator.

2022 KQ5 has a 720 day (1.97 year) orbital period, with an elliptical orbit tilted at an angle of 2.06° to the plain of the Solar System which takes in to 1.004  AU from the Sun (100.4% of the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) and out to 2.14 AU (214% of the distance at which the Earth orbits the sun and further from the Sun as the planet Mars). This means that close encounters between the asteroid and Earth happen occasionally, with the last calculated to have happened in July 2022 next predicted in June 2025.  It is therefore classed as an Amor Group Asteroid (an asteroid which comes close to the Earth, but which is never closer to the Sun than the Earth is)2022 KQ5 also has occasional close encounters with the planet Mars, with the last having happened in October 2018, and the next predicted for October 2077.

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