Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Asteroid 2015 FE passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2015 FE passed by the Earth at a distance of 12 010 000 km (31.3 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 8.03% of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), at about 4.45 pm GMT on Thursday 19 March 2015. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though had it done so it would have presented only a minor threat. 2015 FE 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 explode in an airburst (an explosion caused by superheating from friction with the Earth's atmosphere, which is greater than that caused by simply falling, due to the orbital momentum of the asteroid) in the atmosphere between 20 and 1 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface, although since an object at the upper end of this range would be expected to release an amount of energy equivalent to about 25 megatons of TNT (roughly 425 000 times the energy released by the Hiroshima bomb), then being directly underneath it might be fairly unpleasant.

The calculated orbit of 2015 FE. JPL Small Body Database.

2015 FE was discovered on 16 March 2015 (three 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 2015 FE implies that it was the fifth asteroid (asteroid E) discovered in the second half of March 2015 (period 2015 F). 

While 2015 FE occasionally comes near to the Earth, it does not actually cross our orbital path. It has an elliptical 1237 day orbit, at an angle of 11.8° to the plane of the Solar System, that takes it from 1.07 AU from the Sun (1.07 times the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun), slightly outside our orbit, to 3.44 AU from the Sun, (3.44 times the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun and considerably more than twice the distance at which the planet Mars orbits the Earth). As a Near Earth Object that remains strictly outside the orbit of the Earth it is classed as an Amor Family Asteroid.

See also...


Asteroid 2015 DG198 passed by the Earth at a distance of 12 300 000 km (32.0 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 8.22% of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly before 9.10 pm GMT on Sunday 15... 


Asteroid 2015 FS passed by the Earth at a distance of 16 620 000 km (43.4 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 11.1% of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly after 11.40 pm GMT on Saturday 14...


Asteroid 2015 EU passed by the Earth at a distance of 9 359 000 km (24.7 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 6.26% of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly after 2.40 am GMT on Thursday 12 March 2015.



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