A large Asteroid is going to pass fairly close to Earth later tonight. Fortunately, it’s not going to hit us by about 310,000 miles.
By comparison, the moon orbits about 240,000 miles from Earth.
Astronomers spotted this the Near Earth Object (NEO) thanks to an experimental “intruder alert” NASA program to detect and track potentially harmful space rocks passing close to our planet.
The tool is a computer program called Scout, and it’s constantly scanning data from telescopes to see if there are any reports of incoming objects. If it finds one, it makes a quick calculation of whether Earth is at risk, and instructs other telescopes to make follow-up observations to see if any risk is real.
“Objects can come close to the Earth shortly after discovery, sometimes one day, two days, even hours in some cases,” said NASA Jet Propulsion Lab’s (JPL) Davide Farnocchia. “The main goal of Scout is to speed up the confirmation process.”
“When a telescope first finds a moving object, all you know is it’s just a dot, moving on the sky,” says Paul Chodas of JPL. “You have no information about how far away it is. “The more telescopes you get pointed at an object, the more data you get, and the more you’re sure you are how big it is and which way it’s headed. But sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to make those observations.
The asteroid scheduled to pass near the Earth Sunday evening was discovered on the night of October 25-26. Additional observations by three telescopes confirmed the object would miss Earth by a comfortable margin. Astronomers were also able to estimate the size of the object: somewhere between 5 meters and 25 meters across.