Close Call with Large Asteroid for Earth

On April 19 an asteroid about 2000 ft across (roughly the distance from the RKC to the Manor Gate House) passed relatively close to earth. Though we luckily escaped a Deep Impact style catastrophe, the asteroid passed less than five times the distance from the earth to the moon (1.1 million miles), making it the closest encounter we’ve had with a large asteroid since 2004 when Toutatis made its harrowing journey less than four times the distance of the moon from the earth.
The asteroid, dubbed 2014 JO25 has an elliptical orbit that at its perihelion passes between mercury and the sun and at its aphelion almost reaches Jupiter’s orbit. Due to its orbit and the earth’s orbit this is the first time JO25 has come this close to earth in over four centuries and it will be many more before it is as close as it was on the 19th.
JO25 is peanut shaped and is what is called a contact binary, or an astronomical body that is the result of two smaller bodies coming together and fusing making one larger body. Sometime, in the past 4.5 billion years two asteroids became entangled in each other’s gravitational pull. It could have happened slowly, traveling on almost parallel paths that eventually met with little fanfare and the objects quietly went from being two to being one. More likely there was a crash, something dramatic which meant the end for those two smaller bodies and the beginning of something new and larger. When they met the likely shattered, parts of themselves exploding in all directions, so no its not quite right to say that two became one, two became many, though one emerged as the sole claimant to their legacies. Parts of those two original bodies have no doubt made it to many distant corners of the solar system. Who knows, maybe a chunk or two somehow landed here on earth.
Anyway its not the small derbies we are concerned with, JO25 has come and passed us by. Of course it takes no note of earth or its tiny, human-sized occupants, but one has to wonder what JO25 would make of us here. It is close enough to be easily observed for two days so lets say that it could view us for two days. For two days every few hundred years this object has seen humanity and earth morph and change. Who knows what it will see the next time its around.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *