Friday, 12 September 2014

Asteroid 2014 QP33 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 QP33 passed by the Earth at a distance of 14 330 000 km (37.47 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 10% of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly after 4.30 am GMT on Friday 5 September 2014. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though had it done so it would have presented only a minor threat. 2014 QP33 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 26-82 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 26-82 m in diameter), and an object of this size would be expected to break up in the atmosphere between 20 and 1 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface, though an object towards the upper end of this range would be likely to explode in the atmosphere with the energy of about 25 megatons of TNT, so being directly underneath it would probably be fairly unpleasant.

The calculated distance of 2014 QP33. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

2014 QP33 was discovered on 22 August 2014 (fourteen days before its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Hawaii's PANSTARRS telescope on Mount Haleakala on Maui. The designation 2014 QP33 implies that it was the 8409th asteroid (asteroid P33) discovered in the second half of August 2014 (period 2014 Q).

While 2014 QP33 occasionally comes near to the Earth, it does not actually cross our orbital path. It has an elliptical 664 day orbit, at an angle of 12.8° to the plane of the Solar System, that takes it from 1.03 AU from the Sun (1.03 times the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun), slightly outside our orbit, to 1.95 AU from the Sun, (1.95 times the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, considerably more than the average distance at which the planet Mars orbits the Sun). As a Near Earth Object that remains strictly outside the orbit of the Earth it is classed as an Amor Family Asteroid. 

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