Published : Monday, May 14, 2018 | 6:00 PM
A fast-moving asteroid the size of a football field will pass Earth at a safe distance on Tuesday, with scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena saying they knew enough about the asteroid “not to be worried.”
Dr. Paul Chodas, who heads the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at JPL, said astronomers affiliated with the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey first saw the asteroid, named 2010 WC9, in 2010 and determined it posed no danger.
2010 WC9 was monitored until December that year and then became too faint to see. On May 8, astronomers again spotted the asteroid and were getting ready to give it a new name, until they realized it was 2010 WC9.
The near-Earth object is expected to zoom past Earth at about 3 p.m. Pacific on Tuesday, at a distance of about 126,000 miles, about half the distance between Earth and the moon.
2010 WC9 has a diameter of about 60 to 134 meters – roughly 200 to 400 feet – and is moving at about 29,000 miles per hour, NBC said quoting Dr. Erin Ryan, an asteroid expert at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
The object that exploded over the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia in February 2013, shattering windows and injuring about 1,500 people, was thought to be about 65 feet wide.
An asteroid the size of 2010 WC9 collides with Earth only about once every 6,000 years, Chodas said.
Northolt Branch Observatories, an astronomy group in London, England, plans to livestream telescopic views of the approaching asteroid on its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NBObservatories, beginning around 9 p.m. Pacific Monday.
Robotic telescope service Slooh also plans to train its telescopes at the fast-moving asteroid and broadcast the images online, at www.slooh.com, from 5 p.m. Monday. Slooh said it will train four different telescopes at the asteroid, from its flagship observatory at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, one of the world’s premier observatory sites.
JPL has a load of information about 2010 WC9 on this page, https://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=2010%20WC9;old=0;orb=0;cov=0;log=0;cad=0#orb, including an orbit diagram.