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The small asteroid 2010 AL30 was recent discovered and will pass close to Earth today. The close fly-by is raising awareness of ongoing efforts to improve detection, to give mankind time to react if a major collision was imminent.  (Source: Ernesto Guido & Giovanni Sostero)
New body is harmless, but it shows that efforts are progressing nicely to detect serious threats

One thing that troubles futurists is that while our society is busy worrying about dangers like global terrorism, it has turned little attention to developing a plan to counter dangers in the skies -- asteroids.  Nobody quite knows what the international community would do if confronted with a serious impact threat

Fortunately, detection efforts are improving at least.  Those improvements were showcased by the discovery of the small asteroid “2010 AL30”.  A couple of days ago, the small asteroid was first observed and added to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Small Body Database.

The small, 10-meter-wide asteroid will pass sometime today within 130,000 km (80,000 miles) of the Earth.  That's about one third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon, which tells you how close this passer-by is.

Scientists originally thought that the small body might be man-made junk (possibly a spent rocket booster or some other piece of a spacecraft), as it shared a similar orbit to Earth.  However, subsequent imaging indicates that the Near Earth Object (NEO) is actually a small asteroid that shares a similar orbit path to the Earth.  More observations will continue, but that's the latest conclusion.  Asteroids with a similar orbital path to Earth are called Apollo class asteroids, named after Apollo 1862, a similar asteroid discovered in 1932.

In its pass today, the NEO will shine with the brightness of a 14th magnitude star -- the same brightness as Pluto.  The body will pass through the Earth view of the constellations Orion, Taurus, and Pisces.  Its path, as seen from Earth, can be found on a NASA website, here.

Every year small asteroids like 2010 AL30 do hit the Earth, exploding in the Earth's upper atmosphere with the energy of a small nuclear bomb.  Thus, small NEO like these pose little threat, other than temporary interference with communications.

However, the potential still remains for a "killer" asteroid --  impact by a much larger body.  Such fears are generally far from the minds of the general public, but they're certainly a hot topic in the space research community and among futurists and science-fiction buffs.  After all, perhaps the most popular theory of how the dinosaurs were pushed to extinction is that an asteroid collided with the Earth, clouding the sky in darkness for years.

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By geddarkstorm on 1/13/2010 1:58:29 PM , Rating: 3
It's unknown if it's actually an asteroid or a piece of one of our spaceships, such as from the Apollo era. This is due to the fact the object has a nearly 1 Earth year elliptical orbital period around the sun, which makes it unlikely to be natural (basically, it has the same orbital velocity as Earth, suggesting it came from Earth).

If it's a rocket stage part, that would also explain its brightness for such a small object. Even huge asteroids in the km range are almost completely dark. This thing is incredibly bright for a 10 meter object, which is why it was spotted in the first place.

RE: Asteroid?
By Motoman on 1/13/2010 2:29:39 PM , Rating: 2 almost certainly is a natural rock, based on it's trajectory.

RE: Asteroid?
By geddarkstorm on 1/13/2010 2:40:57 PM , Rating: 2

Others say the opposite, also based on trajectory. I'll find out for sure soon though, as they are about to radar ping it.

RE: Asteroid?
By geddarkstorm on 1/13/2010 2:42:28 PM , Rating: 2
Or here's where I really meant to link

Gives a nice break down of it all, the orbit, and what it could be if it's man made.

RE: Asteroid?
By Motoman on 1/13/2010 2:48:50 PM , Rating: 2
From the link you provided.

For various reasons, this scenario does not apply here. The 1-year orbital period probably is no more than a fluke. Where does this thing come from? Probably 2010 AL30 is of natural origin.

RE: Asteroid?
By randomly on 1/13/2010 8:09:45 PM , Rating: 2
You need to keep reading after that, he's appended to the blog the calculations and coincidences that support the conjecture that it's the spent Fregat upper stage from the Soyuz launch vehicle for the Venus Express mission.

RE: Asteroid?
By Mitch101 on 1/13/2010 6:41:32 PM , Rating: 4
That's no rock. It's a space station

RE: Asteroid?
By chagrinnin on 1/13/2010 7:49:54 PM , Rating: 1
Even better,'s Rosie O'Donnell and as soon as she's collected enough space junk she'll break orbit and slingshot into the sun. "You go girl!"

RE: Asteroid?
By Belard on 1/14/2010 3:26:29 AM , Rating: 3
... I have a bad feeling about this.

RE: Asteroid?
By manager2 on 1/13/10, Rating: -1
RE: Asteroid?
By Belard on 1/15/2010 9:36:00 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah! Damn scientist!

Giving us light bulbs, combustion engine, fireworks, microwave ovens, computers, lasers (but not on sharks heads yet), plasma TVs, aspirin, Velcro, Film, KY-Jelly, phones, air conditioning, toothpaste...

RE: Asteroid?
By Solandri on 1/13/2010 3:03:04 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't asteroids in orbits similar to Earth also be low-risk even if they hit? Their relative velocity to the Earth would be small, so them hitting Earth would be like a spent satellite deorbiting.

The dangerous asteroids are the ones moving at a high relative velocity, meaning they're in a very different orbit than the Earth. Those contain a significant amount of kinetic energy relative to the Earth, and their high speed means they are more likely to hit the ground intact, rather than burning up in the atmosphere.

RE: Asteroid?
By Motoman on 1/13/2010 3:07:54 PM , Rating: 2
Size of the object is far more important...a Phobos-sized object entering our atmosphere at a relative speed of 5mph is still going to utterly end life on the Earth. A 10-meter rock is going to burn up before it hits the ground pretty much no matter how fast it's going - in fact, for a rocky oject it'll probably burn up faster if it's relative speed is higher.

RE: Asteroid?
By Motoman on 1/13/2010 3:10:20 PM , Rating: 2
...rethinking that, the 5mph object might need to be a bit bigger than Phobos to truly end all life. But the gist is that a large object doesn't need super high speeds to cause massive damage.

RE: Asteroid?
By Iaiken on 1/13/2010 4:32:49 PM , Rating: 5
Nope, you're pretty much right on.

A Phobos sized object impacting earth at a relative speed of 5mph would displace an enormous amount of atmosphere (5680km^3) at a fast enough rate to generate significant amounts of heat that would further turn such an impact into a firey ordeal long before it actually made contact with the Earth's crust...

Then there is the damage that all those demons on Phobos would do once they got here...

RE: Asteroid?
By Belard on 1/14/2010 4:17:15 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder what Phobos would look like as it passes overhead, but so far it seems a rover has only taken photos as it passes in front of the sun. But it is smaller than the moon so its not exactly impressive.

5MPH isn't so fast. And the Asteroid that Bruce Willis blows up to save the Earth is much bigger than Phobos.... heck, as fast as it was moving, they had time to swing behind the moon and catch up... (I think... I forgot, it was a stupid movie)

Okay, how about 1 MPH?


RE: Asteroid?
By umop apisdn on 1/15/2010 9:55:13 AM , Rating: 2
Then there is the damage that all those demons on Phobos would do once they got here...

That's when the space Marines come into play.

RE: Asteroid?
By JediJeb on 1/13/2010 4:59:57 PM , Rating: 2
If it's a rocket stage part, that would also explain its brightness for such a small object

The article says it will be a magnitude 14 object, that is very very dim not bright. At 80k miles you will still need a good telescope to even see it. So it is not that reflective overall.

as long as we have bruce willis
By tastyratz on 1/13/2010 1:51:13 PM , Rating: 2
he can nuke it.

RE: as long as we have bruce willis
By dflynchimp on 1/13/2010 2:08:41 PM , Rating: 5
yes but what are the costs?

Shuttles destroyed: 1
Human Casualties: upwards of 10

Chuck Norris can get the job done in two minutes and still have time to pose for "Beardtastic Weekly"

RE: as long as we have bruce willis
By mkruer on 1/13/2010 2:51:24 PM , Rating: 3
Get MacGyver; He could nuke it using nothing more then some string and a bubblegum wrapper.

RE: as long as we have bruce willis
By Chernobyl68 on 1/13/2010 4:29:23 PM , Rating: 3
Probably a Gou'ld cargo ship anyway.

RE: as long as we have bruce willis
By foolsgambit11 on 1/14/2010 12:12:01 AM , Rating: 2
How many syllables in that word? Because MacGyver (erm, Richard Dean Anderson) gives it one, While Teal'c gives it 3.

By InsaneScientist on 1/14/2010 1:32:29 AM , Rating: 2
3 syllables. The one syllable variation is an abbreviation.

It's actually spelt Goa'uld (though how it converts from their language so cleanly into roman characters is beyond me...) with the first part being two syllables and the latter being the last one.

RE: as long as we have bruce willis
By docmilo on 1/13/2010 2:22:41 PM , Rating: 2
It will be a little tough however to land a Space Shuttle on steroids on an object 10 meters wide to drill a hole in it to perform said nuking.

By Seemonkeyscanfly on 1/20/2010 8:54:52 AM , Rating: 2
Do not nuke it... It's just General Zod and this two friend in their cell. If you nuke it they will be free....

What would be the plan...
By Amiga500 on 1/13/2010 2:37:42 PM , Rating: 2
In event of a big one being on collision course?

Sit around and talk about it? Probably. No doubt the politicians would be able to find themselves a nice safe location to hide in.
The rest of us? F**ked.

Perhaps instead of wasting money on windmills, engineering time would be better spent on solving problems like this.

RE: What would be the plan...
By Spuke on 1/13/2010 3:39:31 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps instead of wasting money on windmills, engineering time would be better spent on solving problems like this.
Nah, deciding which dog is going to be the humper and the humpee is MUCH more important.

RE: What would be the plan...
By cornelius785 on 1/13/2010 4:07:24 PM , Rating: 2
By 'find', do you mean build a bunker in at an undisclosed location in an undisclosed mountain? cause they already built atleast one (look into the The Greenbrier). We all know that politicians have the knowledge and ability to rebuild the world after the nuclear bomb goes boom or the asteriod crashes.

RE: What would be the plan...
By goz314 on 1/13/2010 5:02:11 PM , Rating: 4
Perhaps instead of wasting money on windmills, engineering time would be better spent on solving problems like this.

Write to your congressman and senator if you are so displeased. FYI Congress directed NASA to conduct the near earth object survey back in 2005, but they didn't provide any specific funds to actually get it done. NASA is funding the project with their own general funds, but the amount appropriated between now and the survey deadline in 2020 is only ~$4M per fiscal year. NASA simply does not have the funding or the resources to do anything more than that. That status quo won't likely change given the overall federal budget problems instigated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the financial meltdown of 2007 and 2008.

RE: What would be the plan...
By Disenchanted on 1/13/2010 7:25:25 PM , Rating: 2
Along that same thought, is anyone else even a little disturbed that we only saw this thing a couple days ago? If science in general, and space in particular got the funding it deserves, this wouldn't have even been news. Heck, maybe we would've intercepted it and mined it for it's resources. (Even though it was small, you get the point.)

RE: What would be the plan...
By foolsgambit11 on 1/14/2010 12:19:04 AM , Rating: 2
A bigger asteroid (one that would be a threat to us) would also be easier to spot. I'm not saying we've found everything that could be a threat, but the possibility of being hit by something dangerous, but that we could prevent, is infinitesimally small. The people panicking about NEOs are the same people worried about black holes from the LHC.

RE: What would be the plan...
By JediJeb on 1/14/2010 1:47:43 PM , Rating: 2
They could save money on the project by buying amateur astronomers a 14-16inch class telescope with CCD camera and computer, and a small dome to protect it. That would cost about $30k for each setup. For the $4mil you could buy 133 of those setups and have tons of data flowing in each night.

As for knowing about all the big ones that pose a threat, they are finding new ones quite frequently. has a list of them each week as they are spotted with the size and closest approach. It is rather frightening just how many in a years time pass closer than the moon, yet the public never really knows about them.

RE: What would be the plan...
By just4U on 1/16/2010 12:48:59 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps instead of wasting money on windmills, engineering time would be better spent on solving problems like this.

Don't really need danger from the sky.. One of our Super Volcanos could got active and ... yeah well ... it won't be pretty.

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