Flyby Earth on Asteroid 2014 DX110

Seth Jarvis

Space is a shooting gallery and our little blue planet is a target.  It’s as simple as that.

Our world orbits the Sun once each year at an average speed of more than 65,000 miles per hour.   Every day our world collides with countless bits of rock and dust floating in space that, unfortunately for them, get in our planet’s way. Most of the rocks we encounter are about the size of a grain of sand and they make pretty “shooting stars” (aka meteors) as they vaporize overhead in the night sky. Some bits of space-rock are the size of apples and they create beautiful and very bright fireballs. Some are bigger. Sometimes they are A LOT bigger.

While meteors are a common sight in the nighttime sky, collisions between Earth and space-rocks the size of a house or larger are very rare.  But that doesn’t mean these big chunks of rock aren’t out there, and plentiful.  Astronomers have now identified thousands of asteroids that periodically get so close to Earth that they have to be classified as “Potentially Hazardous.”  New Potentially Hazardous Asteroids are discovered at the rate of about two per week.

One of these asteroids, known as 2014 DX110, will pass harmlessly, but still fairly close (slightly closer to us than our Moon), to us at about 2:00 PM (MDT) on Wednesday, March 6th.

Watch an animation of Asteroid 2014 DX110 fly by Earth.

 

While that’s during daytime for us in the US, it’s nighttime in Europe, and more than a few large telescopes will observe this “near-miss” with 2014 DX110.  This asteroid is only about a hundred feet in diameter, which means that at this asteroids close-approach distance of more than 200,000 miles, a small telescopes doesn’t have a  prayer of seeing it.  BUT, large observatories will be watching it and web-casting the flyby.

Which got me to thinking, “What would it look like if you were riding on the asteroid and looked at Earth during the flyby from there?”

And because the advent of computers make such questions answerable, I encourage you to watch this short video animation I prepared of the flyby of asteroid 2014 DX110 from the asteroid’s point of view.  Please note, I’ve equipped our asteroid-rider with a pair of normal-power binoculars to make the flyby a little more fun to watch.  200,000+ miles is still a ways away and a little magnification isn’t a bad idea.

You can also learn more about this flyby by reading this excellent article.

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