Friday, 6 March 2015

Asteroid (90416) 2003 YK118 passes the Earth.

Asteroid (90416) 2003 YK118 passed by the Earth at a distance of 11 700 000 km (30.4 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 7.82 % of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly after 7.30 pm GMT on Friday 27 February 2015. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though had it done so it would have presented a considerable threat. (90416) 2003 YK118 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 380-1200 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 380-1200 m in diameter), and an object of this size would pass through the atmosphere and directly impact the ground with a force of about 2900-160 000 megatons (about 170 000-9 400 000 times the explosive energy of the Hiroshima bomb), causing devastation over a wide area and creating a crater 5-15 kilometers across, and resulting in global climatic problems that could last for decades or even centuries.

Image of (90416) 2003 YK118 taken from Balen in Belgium on 12 February 2015. Elongate objects are stars, the shape caused by their movement over a nine minute exposure. Dot at center of image is asteroid. Alfons Diepvens.

(90416) 2003 YK118 was discovered on 28 December 2003 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Laboratory in Socorro, New Mexico. The designation 2002 YK118 implies that it was the 2960th asteroid (asteroid K118) discovered in the second half of December 2003 (period 2003 Y). The longer designation, (90416), indicates that the asteroid was the 90 416th asteroid ever discovered. Asteroids are not given this longer designation immediately, to avoid duplicate or false sightings.

The calculated orbit of (90416) 2003 YK118. JPL Small Body Database.

(90416) 2003 YK118 has a 806 day orbital period and an eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 7.84° to the plane of the Solar System, which takes it from 0.86 AU from the Sun (i.e. 86% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 2.53 AU from the Sun (i.e. 253% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, considerably 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 extremely common, with the last having occurred in February 2004 this year and the next predicted in April 2026. As an asteroid probably larger than 150 m in diameter that occasionally comes within 0.05 AU of the Earth, (90416) 2003 YK118 is also classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid.

See also...

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