At 2:15 p.m. EDT today, 9/7/14, a 60-foot space rock (asteroid) named 2014 RC will make its closest approach to the Earth at a mere 25,000 miles. The space rock will safely pass below Earth and our geosynchronous satellites as can be seen in this NASA JPL graphic:
|NASA JPL GRAPHIC|
Astronomers will study 2014 RC as it passes by to add to our knowledge of these roamers of the solar system. The orbit of the asteroid will also be refined so that it can be monitored for any future potential threat to Earth.
2014 RC will be visible to observers with telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere so we should get some pictures of this cosmic interloper.
This asteroid is about the same size as the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia on 2/15/13 and caused damage and injuries. Because Chelyabinsk came in from the direction of the Sun it was not seen before it entered our atmosphere.
Our solar system has a lot of asteroids in it, probably millions, and we have discovered a good percentage of the larger ones but have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the Chelyabinsk-sized space rocks. Comets pose a potential threat to Earth that is even greater than asteroids because they can be larger and faster moving and thereby provide less reaction time.
I personally believe we need to do more as a species about discovering these Near Earth Objects (NEOs). One thing you can consider doing is making a donation to the B612 Foundation to help fund the Sentinel spacecraft and mission.
Sentinel will be a big help in looking for NEOs as it will be out by Venus and give us a different perspective in our hunt for NEOs. Sentinel will help detect incoming sunward (from Earth's view) asteroids like Chelyabinsk which could allow for evacuation of a impact zone.
Here is a widget from NASA that tracks asteroid close approaches. Pretty amazing to watch this day to day as I do. You can also track Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) daily here.
Humanity is in the process of coming up with a planetary defense plan against NEOs but it will take time and money. I always tell my audiences and have them repeat it - "The dinosaurs are dead because they did not have a space program". Like B612 Foundation co-founder and former shuttle astronaut Ed Lu says, "Asteroid impacts are the only preventable natural disaster. For the cost of a freeway overpass we can mitigate this threat".
Sky Guy in VA