Watch Asteroid 2002 AM31 Zip By Earth Sunday Night Via Live Webcast

2002 AM31 swings by Earth tomorrow evening at 13.7 lunar distances. The diagram shows its position near Earth this morning (July 21). Credit: JPL/NASA

An Earth-approaching asteroid discovered in 2002 will be passing through the neighborhood Sunday night (July 22). 2002 AM31, a leftover fragment of rock from the solar system’s youth, will fly safely by Earth at a distance of 3.2 million miles (13.7 times the distance to the moon) around 8 p.m. (CDT) July 22.

With a diameter estimated between 1,115 and 2,600 feet, 2002 AM31 is bigger than many close approaching asteroids. Pity it won’t be very bright – only 14th magnitude – but savvy amateur astronomers with 10-inch or larger telescopes can track it in the northern sky as it creeps through the constellation Cepheus. To get a list of it hour-by-hour positions that you can plot on a star atlas, click HERE and then click the “Generate Ephemeris” button.

If you don’t have the equipment, no worries. The SLOOH Space Camera will broadcast the asteroid flyby live beginning 6:30 p.m. (CDT) Sunday. Because of its relatively small size and distance, 2002 AM31 will look like a “star” moving across a field of background stars. I’ve watched these webcasts before and they’re a lot of fun. You not only feel like you’re “right there” in real time, but you’ll learn a lot about asteroids from the accompanying commentary.

2 Responses

  1. Doug

    Hey astrobob,
    Newly discovered asteroid 2012 od1 is supposed to come close to earth on wednesday. The research says earth moid = 0.0362 AU. How far, or close is this to us?

    1. astrobob

      Doug,
      During its current apparition it only comes as close as 0.39 A.U. or 36.3 million miles. The other number comes out to 3.4 million miles, still pretty dog gone far. An A.U. or astronomical unit is one Earth-sun distance or 93 million miles.

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