Even Tinier Asteroid 2014 EC Flies Just 48,000 Miles From Earth Tomorrow

This is where 2014 EC is today as it heads towards its close Earth flyby tomorrow. Credit: NASA/JPL

Don’t forget to look both ways. You can hardly cross the street but another asteroid comes flying by. Last night astronomers discovered a new object named 2014 EC. This one’s tiny – only 33 feet (10 meters) across or about half the size of the asteroid that blasted to bits over Chelyabinsk, Russia last February.

It zooms by Earth tomorrow March 6 around 3 p.m. CST at a distance of just 48,000 miles (77,000 km). Again, there’s no threat of a strike. Asteroids can pass very close to the planet without getting “sucked in” by gravity because they’re moving forward in their orbits at tens of thousands of miles an hour. That’s a lot of momentum.

Still, a small asteroid making a pass near Earth doesn’t get away scot-free. Much like the Voyager space probe (and others) that passed close to one planet to slingshot to the next, small asteroids passing near Earth have their orbits re-shaped by our planet’s gravity and sent on their way on a different trajectory.

Three classes of asteroids that pass near Earth or cross its orbit are named for the first member discovered — Apollo, Aten and Amor. Apollo asteroids like 2014 EX110 routinely cross Earth’s orbit, Atens briefly cross and Amors cross Mars’ orbit but miss Earth’s. Credit: ESA

As 2014 EC is another Earth-approaching asteroid like 2014 EX110, there’s always a possibility it could smack out planet in the future. And I do mean future. At the moment, there’s a one in 2.7 million chance of an impact in 2025. Once more observations are in and the orbit refined, those chances will likely be even less.

Amateur astronomers living in Europe, the Middle East and Africa will be able to spot this little rock shining dimly at around magnitude 13.5-14.0 for a couple of hours centered on closest approach as its tears across the constellations Hydra, Antlia and Vela. You’ll need at least an 8-inch telescope to spot it. Click HERE to get positions to make a map of its travels.

For those of us without giant telescopes or living where it daytime during the close passage, the Virtual Telescope Project will feature a live webcast of 2014 EC’s flyby. Tune in around 1:30 p.m. CST. If that link isn’t working, please check SLOOH’s live-cast HERE.

9 Responses

  1. Neeley

    Geez, that one is close. I’m really starting to get worried that we’ll get hit with one soon. =(

  2. Bob Crozier

    So here I am, sitting at home recovering from a nasty flu bug, and so had a little time on my hands. I have been looking at a few of the JPL small body orbit diagrams for some of these near-Earth asteroids that have been ‘popping up’ very recently. It appears to my very untrained eye that 2014 EC (passing by on Thursday: http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=2014%20EC;orb=1;cov=0;log=0;cad=0#orb) and 2014 CU13 (passing by Sunday: http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=2014%20CU13;orb=1) are on very nearly the same orbital plane and their ellipses are pointed very nearly the same direction. The difference between them is that CU13 has a much longer orbit. Here’s my question: would this suggest that these two rocks may have come from the same parent body at some point in the past?

    1. astrobob

      Hi Bob,
      Very hard to say. Although both have similar perihelion distances, the eccentricities of their orbits are somewhat different and their orbital periods are very different. My hunch is no, but since the orbits are brand new and still being worked out, they might turn out to be more similar, which could imply a connection in the distant past.

  3. Neeley

    Bob, did you hear about the other asteroid that will pass 0.2 LD? Isn’t that super close? You don’t think it will hit us or the moon do you?

    1. astrobob

      Yes, but planets don’t move up and down as they orbit the sun. All eight orbit in nearly the same plane and keep to their paths. If they did move up and down, we’d surely see and measure it.

  4. Alex garcia

    Asteroid 2014 EC Live! as another near earth asteroid will zip fast by the earth near the moon’s distance… @

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