Fortunately, detection efforts are
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.
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
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.
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.
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.