With little warning, a relatively large asteroid flew through the Earth-Moon system on April 15th only 192,200 km (0.5 LD) from our planet. 2018 GE3 was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey approaching Earth on April 14th. Hours later, amateur astronomer Michael Jäger of Weißenkirchen Austria video-recorded the space rock rushing through the southern constellation Serpens:
"According to wikipedia, 2018 GE3 is the largest known asteroid to pass that close to Earth in observational history," says Jäger. "It was shining like a 13th magnitude star at the time of my observations."
Based on the intensity of its reflected sunlight, 2018 GE3 must be 48 to 110 meters wide, according to NASA-JPL. This puts it into the same class as the 60-meter Tunguska impactor that leveled a forest in Siberia in 1908. A more recent point of comparison is the Chelyabinsk meteor--a ~20-meter asteroid that exploded in the atmosphere over Russia on Feb. 15, 2013, shattering windows and toppling onlookers as a fireball brighter than the sun blossomed in the blue morning Ural sky. 2018 GE3 could be 5 to 6 times wider than that object.
If 2018 GE3 had hit Earth, it would have caused regional, not global, damage, and might have disintegrated in the atmosphere before reaching the ground. Nevertheless, it is a significant asteroid, illustrating how even large space rocks can still take us by surprise. 2018 GE3 was found less than a day before before its closest approach.
Based on an observational arc of only 1 day, 2018 GE3 appears to follow an elliptical orbit which stretches from the asteroid belt to deep inside the inner solar system. Every ~2.5 years the space rock crosses the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars--although not necessarily making close approaches to the planets themselves. An interactive 3D orbit of the asteroid is available from JPL: explore it here!
LOST ASTEROID RETURNS TO EARTH: Almost 8 years ago, in Nov. 2010, the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona discovered an asteroid as wide as a football field. Before astronomers could fully trace its orbit, however, the receding space rock faded away. Since then, 2010 WC9 has been "lost"--but now it's back. Marian Urbanik of Čadca, Slovakia, photographed the asteroid approaching Earth on May 12th, shown here as a 17th magnitude speck in the constellation Hercules:
2010 WC9 is about to get much closer and brighter. On May 15th it will fly past our planet, splitting the distance between Earth and the Moon. At closest approach (203,000 km) it will glow like an 11th magnitude star (~250 times brighter than shown above) as it races through the southern constellation Pavo (the Peacock).
Estimates of 2010 WC9's size range from 60 m to 130 m wide. This puts it in the class of the Tunguska impactor, which leveled a forest in Siberia in 1908. And it is at least 3 times as large as the Chelyabinsk meteoroid, which exploded in the morning sky over Russia on Feb. 15, 2013, shattering windows and knocking people to the ground
There's no danger of a collision this time, though. Analysts are certain 2010 WC9 will not hit Earth--neither this week nor in the foreseeable future. New observations of the asteroid in recent days have greatly refined our knowledge of its orbit and eliminated it as a threat. Stay tuned for updates and more images as 2010 WC9 draws near.
casper: I'm back again!!! Maybe this time my computer won't die like it did the last time.
Apr 29, 2018 19:36:04 GMT -6
casper: Skywalker just fixed it. You know what that means. It's doomed.
Apr 29, 2018 19:36:53 GMT -6
skywalker: Very funny, ghost boy
Jun 3, 2018 14:58:58 GMT -6
lois: Casper he should come fix mine. Mine is doomed
Jun 26, 2018 21:54:27 GMT -6
spotless38: Iam back after a long break . What a couple of years I had . After what had happened I lost my brother and had to bury him and then I had caught that type A flue and I was a very sick puppy I also needed blood for the loss of it .
Jul 7, 2018 13:30:41 GMT -6
lois: Very Happy to see you Ron. Missed you. Glad you are doing better now. Sorry for your lost. I did not know your brother had passed. hugs lois
Jul 10, 2018 0:52:45 GMT -6
paulette: Ron - hope you've hit a quiet spot. Sorry for your loss.
Aug 3, 2018 10:49:30 GMT -6
lois: I picked up my phone a few days ago and I looked at the name of the caller. Boy was I surprise. It has been a couple of years. So good to hear your voice Ron. Hope you make it a habit again. love and hugs .
Aug 15, 2018 23:21:38 GMT -6
leia77: Spotless, I am glad that you are feeling better and welcome back! I too am back from a long time away...
Aug 31, 2018 2:08:32 GMT -6
jcurio: I am much relieved to see that you have been on here, Spotless! I hope that things are going much better for you now
Sept 19, 2018 16:46:42 GMT -6
jcurio: And Lois, And Lorelei!
Sept 19, 2018 16:47:07 GMT -6
casper: And Meeeeeee!!
Oct 16, 2018 18:41:31 GMT -6
lois: Sorry guys I cannot see the print. On is tiny hand computer
Oct 21, 2018 20:42:09 GMT -6
lois: Casper your page stops at page five in 2016
Nov 15, 2018 23:54:01 GMT -6
lois: How did your Halloween night go this year?
Nov 15, 2018 23:54:58 GMT -6
skywalker: He posted on the Halloween thread this year.
Nov 25, 2018 18:33:36 GMT -6
lois: Oh ok Sky I will check it out. Thanks.
Dec 21, 2018 21:45:31 GMT -6
lois: What topic was it under.
Dec 21, 2018 21:51:07 GMT -6