Astronomers watch asteroids streaking toward Earth, Mars

NASA is watching closely a 2,000 foot asteroid that will come within  334,000 miles of Earth at 3:33 a.m. Jan. 29. 

So if you are a numbers person you might lay down some money on 3s in Las Vegas.  While that distance is “close” in space terms, experts weren’t predicting an Armageddon moment.   

Asteroid 2007 TU24 was discovered by the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey on Oct. 11, 2007. Scientists at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have determined that there is no possibility of an impact with Earth in the foreseeable future, NASA said in a release.   

"This will be the closest approach by a known asteroid of this size or larger until 2027," said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near Earth Object Program Office at JPL. "As its closest approach is about one-and-a-half times the distance of Earth to the moon, there is no reason for concern. On the contrary, Mother Nature is providing us an excellent opportunity to perform scientific observations."

NASA noted that on Jan.29  the asteroid will be observable at night from dark locations that have clear skies.  A telescope with apertures of at least 7.6 centimeters (3 inches) should be able to see the asteroid. 

 NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth. The Near Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers, characterizes and computes trajectories for these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet. 

NASA has a cool little interactive application here detailing the asteroid’s motion. 

Coincidentally, NASA is also tracking the trajectory of an asteroid streaking toward Mars that is expected to pass within 30,000 miles of Mars at about 6 a.m. EST Jan. 30. Asteroid 2007 WD5 was first discovered Nov. 20 and put on a "watch list" because its orbit passes near Earth. NASA has determined the asteroid is not a danger to Earth.

"We estimate such impacts occur on Mars every thousand years or so," NASA said last month in a statement.

The agency said the asteroid could hit Mars at about 30,000 miles per hour and create a crater more than a half-mile wide. 

Layer 8 in a box

Check out these other hot stories:

Fill ‘er up, with oranges? 

FTC throws cold water on Ethernet patent overcharges 

4 things you should know about mainframes and SOA 

Robot planes to track weather, climate 

Star Trek-like Ion engines to rocket space agency’s Mercury shot 

Research on health impact of wireless devices lacking, group says 

Terminator-like contact lenses offer superhuman vision  

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.