An asteroid that may be longer than a football field will soon have a near-Earth encounter as it will zoom past the planet at about half its distance from the moon.
Asteroid flyby stories are no longer unusual, with the most recent one on asteroid 2018 GE3, which was only detected after it passed the Earth. What makes this upcoming asteroid flyby worthy of a story?
‘Lost’ Asteroid To Fly Close To Earth
The asteroid, named 2010 WC9, was first detected on Nov. 30, 2010, by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona. Astronomers kept their eye on it until Dec. 1 that year, when it became too faint to monitor. They were not able to predict when it will return due to the lack of observations on its orbit.
On May 8, after almost eight years, astronomers found an asteroid, which they eventually figured out was the returning 2010 WC9.
Asteroid 2010 WC9 will fly closest to Earth on May 15, at 6:05 pm EDT, when the asteroid will be just about 126,000 miles from Earth. According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, the flyby of 2010 WC9 will be the closest of an asteroid its size in almost 300 years.
Asteroid Close Call? 2010 WC9 Vs Chelyabinsk Meteor
Is asteroid 2010 WC9 big enough that we should be worried about the close encounter? The asteroid, which will fly past the Earth at 28,000 miles per hour, will measure from 60 meters to 130 meters, which may make it longer than football fields that stretch for 110 meters.
Compared to other asteroids, 2010 WC9 is not a large one but it is likely bigger than the Chelyabinsk meteor, which was initially estimated to be 65 feet long. The Chelyabinsk meteor, however, injured more than a thousand people in Russia, shattering glass across the city, which it was named after.
With 2010 WC9 possibly bigger than the Chelyabinsk meteor, does it present any significant danger to Earth? Astronomers believe that despite its size and distance to Earth, 2010 WC9 will safely zoom past the planet.
How To Watch Asteroid 2010 WC9
The Asteroid 2010 WC9 will not be bright enough to be visible to the human eye as it flies past Earth, but it will be picked up by amateur telescopes that are pointed at the right direction at the right time.
For those who would like to watch from the comfort of their own homes, Northolt Branch Observatories in London, England said that it will broadcast the asteroid live from its Facebook page.