Thursday, 12 May 2016

Asteroid (388495) 2008 TZ3 passes the Earth.

Asteroid (388495) 2008 TZ3 passed by the Earth at a distance of 5 046 000 km (13.1 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 3.37% of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly before 10.40 am GMT on Thursday 5 May 2016. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though had it done so it would have presented a considerable threat. (388495) 2008 TZ3 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 160-490 m (i.e. a spherical body with the same mass would be 160-490  m in diameter), and an object of this size would pass through the atmosphere and directly impact the ground with a force of about 200-5000 megatons (about 1200-300 000 times the explosive energy of the Hiroshima bomb), causing devastation over a wide area and creating a crater 2.5-7.5 km across, and resulting in global climatic problems that could last for decades or even centuries.

The calculated orbit of (388495) 2008 TZ3. JPL Small Body Database.

(388495) 2008 TZ3 was discovered on 6 October 2008 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 2008 TZ3 implies that the asteroid was the 100th object (object Z3) discovered in the first half  of October 2008 (period 2008 T), while the designation 388495 implies that it was 388 495th asteroid ever discovered (asteroids are not given this longer designation immediately to avoid naming double or false sightings).
 
(388495) 2008 TZ3 has a 732 day orbital period and an eccentric orbit that takes it from 0.97 AU from the Sun (i.e. 97% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 2.21 AU from the Sun (i.e. 221% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, considerably outside orbit of the planet 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 April 2014 and the next predicted in May 2018. As an asteroid possibly larger than 150 m in diameter that occasionally comes within 0.05 AU of the Earth, (388495) 2008 TZ3 is also classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid.
 
See also...
 
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