Friday, 22 August 2014

Asteroid 2014 MP5 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 MP5 passed by the Earth at a distance of about 6 745 000 km (17.54 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 4.5% of the average distance between the Earth an the Sun), slightly after 4.35 am GMT on Saturday 16 August 2014. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though were it to do so it would have presented a serious threat. 2014 MP5 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 82-260 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 82-260 m in diameter), and an object towards the upper end of this range would be predicted to be capable of passing through the Earth's atmosphere relatively intact, impacting the ground with an energy equivalent to about 750 megatons of TNT (roughly 44 000 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb). Such an event would result in a crater about 4 km across, cause devastation on a wide scale and would have the potential to affect the climate globally for years after the impact event.

The calculated orbit of 2014 MP5. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

2014 MP5 was discovered on 19 June 2014 (58 days before its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Hawaii's PANSTARRS telescope on Mount Haleakala on Maui. The designation 2014 MP5 implies that it was the 140th asteroid (asteroid P5) discovered in the second half of June 2014 (period 2014 M).

2014 MP5 has a 1163 day year orbital period and an eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 10° to the plane of the Solar System that takes it from 1.03 AU from the Sun (i.e. 103 % of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 3.30 AU from the Sun (i.e. 330% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, considerably more than twice the distance at which the planet Mars orbits the Sun). It is therefore classed as an Amor Group Asteroid (an asteroid which comes close to the Earth, but which is always outside the Earth's orbit). This means that close encounters between the asteroid and Earth are fairly common, with the next predicted in June 2135. As an asteroid on a trajectory which brings it extremely close to Earth which is large enough to cause serious harm should it collide with Earth it is also classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid.

See also...


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