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Asteroid 2014 RC to buzz by Earth

A small asteroid discovered just five days ago will fly past Earth early on Monday September 8 (AEST) travelling through our south-west sky.

Designated 2014 RC, the asteroid will pass by at distance of 40,000 kilometres or within 10% of the moon’s orbit. This is just beyond the range of the geostationary satellites, which form a ring around the Earth at a distance of almost 36,000 km.

Regardless of distance there is no risk of collision as the asteroid will pass below Earth and its satellite ring. Incidentally, it is the sixth asteroid this year that is known to have come with 100,000 km of Earth.

Even at its closest approach the asteroid, estimated to be 20 metres across, is too small and will remain too dim to be seen without a telescope. And it’ll be moving pretty quickly, so anyone planning to catch a glimpse of it through a telescope will need to be well prepared.

2014 RC will speed across the south-west sky on the morning of September 8. Times given are AEST. Museum Victoria/Stellarium

The image above shows the asteroid’s path as seen from Melbourne and was prepared based on data issued by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory HORIZONS system. Closest approach should occur just after 3am (AEST).

The asteroid was first discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey, located in Arizona, on August 31. The following night, it was independently detected by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii.

The event can be viewed online with the Virtual Telescope Project beginning their coverage from 8am (AEST) September 7, and at midday you can catch the broadcast from Slooh.