Saturday, 26 July 2014

Asteroid 2014 MA6 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 MA6 passed by the Earth at a distance of 7 275 000 km (18.93 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 4.9% of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly before 1.00 am GMT on Wednesday 23 July 2014. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though had it done so it would have presented only a moderate threat. 2014 MA6 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 25-78 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 25-78 m in diameter), and an object of this size would be expected to break up in the atmosphere between 20 and 1.5 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface, although being directly beneath an object towards the upper end of this range would probably be quite unpleasant, as it would be expected to explode with the energy equivalent to about 20 megatons of TNT (over a thousand times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb).

The calculated orbit of 2014 MA6. JPL Small Body Database Browser

2014 MA6 was discovered on 21 June 2014 (32 days before its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon Survey at the Steward Observatory on Mount Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The designation 2014 MA6 implies that it was the 151st asteroid (asteroid A6) discovered in the second half of June 2014 (period 2014 M).

2014 MA6 has a 520 day year orbital period and an eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 3.2° to the plane of the Solar System, that takes it from 0.997 AU from the Sun (i.e. 99.7 % of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 1.54 AU from the Sun (i.e. 154% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, slightly outside the orbit of Mars). It is therefore classed as an Apollo Group Asteroid (an asteroid that is on average further from the Sun than the Earth, but which does get closer). This means that close encounters between the asteroid and Earth are fairly common, with the last thought to have happened in January 2012 and the next predicted in March 2021.

See also...


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