Close encounters of the asteroid kind

A newly-discovered asteroid is set to pass through the Earth's neighbourhood on June 27th, venturing 23 time closer to us than the Moon.


Orbit of 2011MD, courtesy of JPL Small-Body Database Browser


The asteroid, 2011MD, was discovered on the 22nd June by a US project named LINEAR, which aims to find objects which pass close to the Earth using robotic telescopes in New Mexico.  Asteroid 2011MD is estimated to be between 9-45 metres in size, and will pass by the Earth at a distance of only 11,000 miles at its closest approach on June 27th, and will be visible to even small telescopes. The image above, courtesy of the JPL Small-Body Database Browser, shows its orbit (white line) as it skims past the Earth.

Faulkes Telescope users can image this asteroid using the 2m Faulkes Telescope in Hawaii. To find its coordinates, go to the Minor Planet Centre website, and enter the observatory details for FTS (observatory code: F65) and the object name 2011MD. Make sure you check the object's altitude column (Object Alt) - the FTs can only observe objects which are higher than 25 degrees above the horizon.

For educational activities based on asteroids and the Solar System, why not visit the Faulkes resources site by clicking here