A near-Earth object (NEO) and potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA) with the catchy official name of 52768 (1998 OR2) passes just 16.4 lunar distances (6.3 million kilometres) from Earth at 09:56 UT on Wednesday, 29 April 2020. Here’s our guide to locating this fascinating asteroid in 15-cm (6-inch) aperture telescopes and smaller from the UK this month.
Possibly as large as The Shard in London, Apollo asteroid 2017 VR12 passes just 3¾ lunar distances from Earth at 7:53am GMT on 7 March. For a few nights, this magnitude +12 space rock is a viable target for small backyard telescopes as it gallops through Coma Berenices and Virgo, passing just 0.8 degrees from Spica on the UK night of 7–8 March.
As shooting-star devotees prepare for the naked-eye spectacle of the Geminid meteor shower in mid-December, owners of small telescopes can also witness the close passage of the meteors’ parent body — a curious “rock comet” known as 3200 Phaethon, galloping through the constellations of Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda, Pisces and Pegasus at a rate of up to 15 degrees/day.
A peanut-shaped asteroid almost a mile long known as 2014 JO25 passes within 5 lunar distances of Earth on 19 April — the closest any known space rock of this size has approached our planet since September 2004. We show you how to find this fast-moving potentially hazardous asteroid in small telescopes during the UK night of 19-20 April.
The Moon was formed by a violent, head-on collision between the early Earth and a “planetary embryo” called Theia (pronounced THAY-eh) approximately 100 million years after the Earth formed, UCLA scientists reveal. This new research also refutes the work of a team of German scientists who, in 2014, reported that the Moon also has its own unique ratio of oxygen isotopes, different from Earth’s.
China’s Yutu rover finds volcanic rocks unlike those returned by earlier missions, offering tantalising clues to the period of lunar volcanism that suggest the Moon was never a fully homogenised body like the Earth. The basalts the rover examined are a new type, chemically different from those retrieved by the Apollo and Luna missions 40 years ago.
Water reserves found on the Moon are the result of asteroids acting as “delivery vehicles” and not of falling comets as was previously thought. Using computer simulation, scientists from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the RAS Geosphere Dynamics Institute have discovered that a large asteroid can deliver more water to the lunar surface than the cumulative fall of comets over a billion year period.
Tiny beads of volcanic glass found on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions are a sign that fire fountain eruptions took place on the Moon’s surface. Now, scientists have identified the volatile gas that drove those eruptions. If volatile reservoirs on the Earth and Moon do indeed share a common source, it has implications for understanding the Moon’s origin.