Long Lost Asteroid is Rediscovered Just Before Making a Close Pass by Earth

Sunday, 13 May 2018 - 5:49PM
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Sunday, 13 May 2018 - 5:49PM
Long Lost Asteroid is Rediscovered Just Before Making a Close Pass by Earth
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NASA/JPL-Caltech
Asteroid 2010 WC9 was first detected way back on November 30, 2010 by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona, who ended up losing track of it a couple weeks later. Eight years later, we found it again. 

WC9 was finally rediscovered last week on May 8, 2018, being given a temporary name until astronomers realized that they'd seen this giant rock before. And while there's no danger of it hitting Earth, part of the reason it was so easily spotted is because it's coming within 0.53 lunar-distances from the planet, which means it will be passing midway between the Earth and Moon this coming Tuesday, May 15, according to EarthSky.

Although it will be passing at a distance of 126,419 miles (203,453 kilometers), it will be visible with even a small telescope. Mostly because it's large: estimates on the size of WC9 range from 197 to 427 feet (60 to 130 meters), and it's extremely rare for asteroids that big to make such a close encounter with Earth (although it's not a large asteroid in general).



If you want to see the asteroid as it's going by, you can either attempt to see it yourself if you have the right equipment - again, your naked eye won't cut it - or you can check out a live broadcast from Northolt Branch Observatories in London. Its approach will begin at 6:05 p.m. Eastern time, and the window of time to see it as it flies past will be about 25 minutes.

While this asteroid will be extremely large and incredible close by our standards, it's far from the first time that big asteroids have brushed past the planet, and there's nothing to worry about. This year alone, we've had plenty of other asteroids come "hazardously" close to Earth, and we're still here, aren't we?

And if WC9 had to pass in between Earth and the Moon before we could find it again, then that's fine - better that we know where an asteroid is than not, just in case.
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