|Trajectory of asteroid 2011 MD during its June 27, 2011 flyby from the general direction of the sun.
UPDATE for 5:35 p.m. ET: NASA has recalculated the time of closest approach for this event to be about 3 1/2 hours later than initially reported. The change is reflected below.
Here’s something to dwell on as you head to work next week: A small asteroid the size of a tour bus will make an extremely close pass by the Earth on Monday, but it poses no threat to the planet
The asteroid will make its closest approach at 1:14 p.m. EDT (1714 GMT) on June 27 and will pass just over 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface, NASA officials say. At that particular moment, the asteroid — which scientists have named 2011 MD — will be sailing high off the coast of Antarctica, almost 2,000 miles (3,218 km) south-southwest of South Africa.
Asteroid 2011 MD was discovered Wednesday (June 22) by LINEAR, a pair of robotic telescopes in New Mexico that scan the skies for near-Earth asteroids. The best estimates suggest that this asteroid is between 29 to 98 feet (9 to 30 meters) wide.
According to NASA’s Near-Earth Object Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., an object of this size can be expected to come this close to Earth about every 6 years or so, on average. [Photo of asteroid 2011MD trajectory]
“There is no chance that 2011 MD will hit Earth but scientists will use the close pass as opportunity to study it w/ radar observations,” astronomers with NASA’s Asteroid Watch program at JPL wrote in a Twitter post Thursday (June 23).
Even if the asteroid were to enter Earth’s atmosphere, it likely wouldn’t reach the surface, they added.
“Asteroid 2011 MD measures about 10 meters. Stony asteroids less than 25 m would break up in Earth’s atmosphere & not cause ground damage,” Asteroid Watch scientists said.
The asteroid’s upcoming Earth flyby will be a close shave, but not a record for nearby passing asteroids. The record is currently held by the asteroid 2011 CQ1, which came within 3,400 miles (5,471 kilometers) of Earth on Feb. 4 of this year.
Trajectory of asteroid 2011 MD on June 27, 2011 projected onto the Earth’s orbital plane. Note from this viewing angle, the asteroid passes underneath the Earth.
CREDIT: NASA View full size image