Like buses, you can wait ages for a near-Earth asteroid – then two come along in quick succession. This weekend you also have the opportunity to view a 70-metre-wide space rock known as 2018 RC in backyard telescopes of 6-inch (15-cm) aperture and larger as its hurtles past Earth closer than the Moon.
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.
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.
Las Cumbres Observatory have partnered with Asteroid Day 2016 and Universe Awareness to create a website which allows you to use a global network of robotic telescopes to take pictures of two asteroids — 2002 KL6 and 2010 NY65 — currently passing close to Earth. On the website you can join the international campaign to study and raise awareness about asteroids.
On 14 March, the ExoMars spacecraft and Schiaparelli lander were lofted into orbit by a Proton rocket, starting a seven-month journey to the Red Planet. For the ExoMars launch, ESA’s near-Earth object (NEO) coordination centre in Italy organised a successful international campaign for ground-based optical observations of the departing spacecraft.
Ever since it was realised that asteroid and comet impacts are a real and present danger to the survival of life on Earth, it was thought that most of those objects end their existence by plunging into the Sun. But a new study finds instead that most of those objects are destroyed in a drawn out, long hot fizzle, much farther from the Sun than previously thought.