Halloween asteroid discovered days before it hurtles towards Earth will have a ‘close pass’ with us, European Space Agency confirms

Almost nothing is known about the asteroid, which was only discovered a couple of weeks ago and will skim past faster than usual

Andrew Griffin@_andrew_griffin
Thursday 29 October 2015 16:51
Asteroid 2011 UW-158 will pass 1.5 million miles away from Earth
Asteroid 2011 UW-158 will pass 1.5 million miles away from Earth

The European Space Agency has said that an asteroid discovered only a couple of weeks ago will have a “close pass” with Earth on Halloween — but will ultimately sail safely past.

Scientists say that the relatively recent discovery of the rock is a reminder that scientists need to be on the lookout for space rocks that are travelling near Earth.

The asteroid will miss Earth by only 480,000-kilometres. While that’s further away from us than the moon is, it is nonetheless a “close pass on a cosmic scale”, according to the experts.

The European Space Agency (ESA) said that there was “no chance” that the rock would hit Earth, or that it would do so in the next 100 years. As such, it isn’t being put in the ESA’s official near-earth object “risk list”, which contains 524 objects.

The asteroid was only spotted on 10 October, from Hawaii. The European Space Agency confirmed it the next day.

“The fact that such a large near-Earth object (NEO), capable of doing significant damage if it were to strike our planet, was discovered only 21 days before closest approach demonstrates the necessity for keeping daily watch of the night sky,” said Detlef Koschny, in ESA’s Space Situational Awareness office, in a statement.

Scientists know almost nothing about the physical characteristics of the asteroid.

January 2015: Giant asteroid passes Earth

“The diameter of about 400 m has a large uncertainty, as is usual in the case of any object for which we do not yet know details, such as its composition,” says Marco Micheli, an astronomer working at ESA’s NEO Coordination Centre in Italy.

“More accurate information on the size will likely become available once the object is observed by radar, which is expected to occur between now and early November via NASA’s Goldstone tracking stations and the Green Bank telescope.”

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