Huge ‘potentially hazardous’ asteroid hurtling towards Earth

A huge 1km-wide asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, prompting astronomers to label it “potentially hazardous”. But don’t pack for Mars just yet – the giant space rock, ‘2014 JO25’, is expected to pass by our planet safely.

According to NASA the encounter on April 19 will be the closest the asteroid comes to Earth in 400 years, and no projected future encounters will be as close for at least another 480 years.

However, another fly-by is expected in 2091 and the space rock also makes regular close approaches to Mercury and Venus.

 
An asteroid of this size won't have as close an encounter with Earth for more than 10 years. "The next known flyby by an object with a comparable or larger diameter will occur when 800-meter-diameter asteroid ‘1999 AN10’ approaches within one lunar distance in August 2027," NASA said.

The asteroid was discovered by the Mt. Lemmon Survey in May 2014. Astronomers describe it as a “bright object” and believe it will be among the best targets for radar observations this year.

READ MORE: Risk of catastrophic asteroid impact ‘real’ – White House

‘2014 JO25’ has been designated as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA) by the Minor Planet Center. PHA’s are asteroids larger than 100 meters that can come closer to Earth than 7,495,839km (about 4,658,000 miles), which is equal to 19.5 ‘Lunar distances’.

Asteroid Hazards, Part 1: What Makes an Asteroid a Hazard?

Despite 2014 JO25’s designation as a PHA, projections predict it will pass by Earth at a safe distance of about 1.8 million km (4.57 lunar distances).

@BadAstronomer Pic of a 10-meter rock that passed inside the Moon’s orbit a couple of hours ago. Amazing we can find these things. http://www.virtualtelescope.eu/2017/04/02/near-earth-asteroid-2017-fu102-close-encounter-image-2-apr-2017/ 


 
 
 

Two other big asteroids, ‘2003 BD44’ and ‘1999 CU3’, which are both nearly 2km wide, will also pass by our planet shortly, however they won’t come as close as 2014.

Astrowatch report 1,781 PHAs were detected on Sunday, however – happily – none of them is on a projected collision course with Earth.

Freddie Mercury: Asteroid named after late Queen star to mark 70th birthday

An asteroid has been named after Freddie Mercury to mark what would have been the singer's 70th birthday.

The Queen frontman has had his name attached to Asteroid 17473, which was discovered in 1991 - the year he died.

Queen guitarist Brian May told a gathering of 1,250 fans at Montreux Casino in Switzerland that the asteroid would now be known as Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury.

May said the honour marked "Freddie's outstanding influence in the world".

Issuing the certificate of designation, Joel Parker of the Southwest Research Institute said the asteroid was a celebration for a "charismatic singer".

"Freddie Mercury sang, 'I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky' - and now that is even more true than ever before," he said.

"But even if you can't see Freddie Mercury leaping through the sky, you can be sure he's there - 'floating around in ecstasy', as he might sing - for millennia to come."

May, who still performs with his Queen colleague drummer Roger Taylor and singer Adam Lambert, is now Dr Brian May after studying for a PhD in Astrophysics at London's Imperial College.

He told the Montreux gathering that the Freddie Mercury asteroid was situated in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and that it measured about two miles across.

"It's a dark object - rather like a cinder in space. Viewed from the Earth it is more than 10,000 times fainter than you can see by eye, so you need a fair-sized telescope to see it and that's why it wasn't discovered until 1991," said May.

The asteroid naming follows a weekend of commemorations of the singer in London, also hosted by May.

The guitarist unveiled an English Heritage blue plaque at his bandmate's childhood home in Feltham, west London.

He said: "And so - for its first appearance in public - Asteroid Freddiemercury - happy birthday Freddie!"

 

  • Published in Culture
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