Two new asteroids make close flybys of Earth

Illustration showing an asteroid its tiny moon making a flyby of Earth. Credit: ESA / P. Carril

An asteroid discovered on Oct. 4 named 2012 TV zipped by Earth at 10:15 a.m. (CDT) this morning at a distance of 238,600 miles, a little closer than the moon. The approximately 120-foot-long space boulder is still out there but quickly receding from Earth’s vicinity. It’s already too dim to see even in large amateur telescopes.

Another recent find, asteroid 2012 TC4, will come even closer on the night of Oct. 11-12. At 11:57 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 11, the speedy visitor will book across the sky 59,000 miles from Earth’s surface. Because of its small size – about 45 to 90 feet across – it will appear as a very faint, fast-moving star in large amateur telescopes at that time. Earlier that evening, the viewing angle will be better and 2012 TC4 will shine brighter at magnitude 13.6. This will make it a decent catch in an scopes 8-inches. I’ll have more details on how to see soon.

2012 TC4 was discovered a little more than a week ago by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System or PANSTARRS. Neither asteroid poses any threat to Earth. Small asteroids like these routinely fly through the neighborhood, and many have come closer. In June 2011 asteroid 2011 MD passed only 7,500 miles away with no ill effects.

Astronomer Dr. Peter Jenniskens finds fragments of the meteorites dropped by the asteroid 2008 TC3. The meteorite received the name Almahata Sitta. Credit: Peter Jenniskens

Until a relatively large space rock is predicted to hit the Earth, we’ll be fine. Even if 2012 TC4 were to target the planet (and it’s not), it would break into pieces and likely drop meteorite fragments. That’s exactly what happened when 2008 TC3 (7-16 feet) struck Earth’s atmosphere on October 7, 2008 and rained 23 lbs. in  600 meteorites over the Nubian Desert in Sudan.

14 thoughts on “Two new asteroids make close flybys of Earth

  1. Thanks for the update Bob I was kind of getting worried about that second one, only noticed it after I sent you that other comment, so thanks again, we can always rely on you Bob :-)

  2. Aloha Astro Bob!

    Wow, am I happy to find your site. I’ve been chicking a website that watches solar flares, aurora and NEO’s and notice every once in a while they will post an NEO with only 24 hours notice (or less!). I’ve been unable to find a website that has consistent information about them and it has driven me close to the point of madness…just kidding, of course. Or am I?

    Anyway, now I know where to go for additional information on these closer than the moon flyby’s. I’ve bookmarked your site for future reference.

    Thank you for being here.

  3. Hi Bob, I have a Orion SkyView Pro 8″ Equatorial Reflector Telescope, but too much light pollution in my area. Do you have any data on the whereabouts of 2012 DA14 ? Thanks!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks Lorena. 2012 DA14 is extremely faint and located in the tail of Scorpius right now. At magnitude 25, it’s beyond the reach of all but the largest telescopes.

  4. I understand that on the morning of Nov. 24, 2013 Comet ISON. Planets, Saturn and Mercury will be witin a 4 degree triangle of each other. Saturn and Mercury will rise about 80-90 minutes before Sunrise. I estimate the comet’s brightness at that time at negative 1.

    • Edward,
      That should be a wonderful sight though all three will be very low in the southeast only a half hour before sunrise from mid-northern latitudes. The comet will be just 5.5 degrees high, but should be visible if it’s -1 mag. Next year looks like a good one for comets.

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