DR. SKY BLOG

Did you know there are more than 15,000 objects floating near Earth in space?

Nov 10, 2016, 6:29 AM
(AP Photo/NASA, ESA, UCLA, D. Jewitt)...
(AP Photo/NASA, ESA, UCLA, D. Jewitt)
(AP Photo/NASA, ESA, UCLA, D. Jewitt)

Welcome asteroid discovery, 2016 TB57!

With the recent discovery of this tiny little asteroid, astronomers are now showing at least 15,197 objects that are simply known as Near-Earth Asteroids, or NEAs.

These are small bodies that can and do come close to the Earth over time.

Asteroids are thought to have formed,for the most part, in the void of space that lies between Mars and Jupiter.

Some asteroids are very large, such as the dwarf planet Ceres — which is about the size of Texas — down to objects that are a few meters across.

Most of these NEAs are discovered on a regular basis, with the large telescopes equipped with CCD cameras from either the Catalina Sky Survey, here in Arizona, or the great Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System in Hawaii.

Did you know that asteroids are grouped into classifications, just like insects or animals?

Amors are asteroids that cross the orbit of Mars and come close to the Earth. Apollos are asteroids that cross the orbit of Earth.

The February 2013 Russian fireball was a member of the Apollo asteroid group. Apollos spend most of their time outside the orbit of Earth.

Atens are a group of asteroids that cross the orbit of the Earth, but spend most of their time inside the orbit of Earth.

Finally, a new class of asteroid has come to pass — the Apohele. This type of asteroid spends all of its time inside the orbit of Earth.

A dozen of these type of objects have been recorded to date, with more being discovered on a monthly basis.

So with all these objects flying around in space, are we close to an impact any time soon? No one really knows for sure, but we seem to be in the clear with the 15,000 objects which have calculated orbits, for now.

Objects that have caused concern for astronomers over the past decade include asteroids such as Apophis. The object, some 270 meters in size, will pass within 18,300 miles on April 13, 2029.

It was once thought to have a higher chance of hitting Earth, but has been given the all-clear.

It will return to the proximity of Earth once again in 2036.

Another asteroid, 4179 Toutatis, named after a Celtic tribal protector, will make a few close passes to Earth over the next few decades, but no impact is expected. This object is about 4.6 kilometers in size — very large indeed!

More discoveries like these are in the works!

To learn more about asteroids and the types that lie out there, click here.

Get your personal November star chart by going here.

See you on the radio!

Dr. Sky Blog

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Did you know there are more than 15,000 objects floating near Earth in space?