Asteroid Opportunity

A few days ago another small asteroid whizzed by the Earth:

Sky-watchers in Asia, Australia, and the Pacific islands welcomed a surprise guest Monday: an asteroid that passed just 41,010 miles (66,000 kilometers) above Earth.

Discovered only days ago, asteroid 2009 DD45 zipped between our planet and the moon at 13:44 universal time (8:44 a.m. ET). The asteroid was moving at about 12 miles (20 kilometers) a second when it was closest to Earth.

“We get objects passing fairly close, or closer than this, every few months,” Timothy Spahr, director of the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center in Massachusetts, said in an email.

“Also, though, note these are only the ones that are discovered. Many more pass this close undetected”—as asteroid 2009 DD45 nearly did.

Astronomers didn’t notice the oncoming asteroid until February 28, when it showed up as a faint dot in pictures taken at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.

At that point the asteroid was already a mere 1.5 million miles (2.4 million kilometers) from Earth, and closing in fast.

Which got me thinking… wouldn’t it be good if a small space probe could be sent to explore such asteroids and leave a radio beacon behind to track them. The problem is that there’s usually only short notice of a close approach , far to short a time frame to plan and launch a spacecraft. So why not park several small space probes in orbit and when the next asteroid approaches send one off to follow? I doubt they would need to wait long for the opportunity. The L4 or L5 orbits would be a good place to store the spacecraft as they could use the gravitational fields of the Earth/Moon system to help accelerate them to the asteroid.


1 Response to “Asteroid Opportunity”

  1. 1 reza May 4, 2010 at 6:46 am

    fortunately it did not hit the earth

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