Posted by Chris Monty on November 21st 2011
On Thanksgiving Day, you may want to give thanks for the fact that we (hopefully) haven’t all been smashed to bits.
NASA has just discovered a new Near-Earth Object (NEO), dubbed Asteroid 2011 WP4 which will graze our planet on Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S.
The asteroid was just discovered on Friday, November 18, 2011 and will pass by us at a distance of 0.0038 AU (Astronomical Units). 1 AU is equal to 150 million kilometers.
For comparison’s sake, Asteroid YU55, which just passed by us a few weeks ago, did so at a distance of 0.0022 AUs, so this one will be a bit farther out…but not by much.
The “Condition Code” assigned to this asteroid is an 8. Basically, orbit determination codes are rated on a scale of 1 to 9. A 1 means NASA is fairly certain of the object’s orbit and a 9 means they basically have no idea.
This asteroid was just discovered on Friday, so scientists have not had much time to analyze its path, which is why the uncertainty code listed is so high.
This is a fairly new find so there isn’t much data available on it at present.
“The 12 – 27 metre wide asteroid 2011 WP4 will make a close pass (1.5 lunar distances, 0.0038 AU), travelling at 10.84 km/second, to the Earth-Moon system on the 24th November, 2011 @ 08:13 UT ±00:42.”
Either way, it looks like it’s going to miss Earth, but it will likely be making headlines within the next day or two…and if the NASA experts are wrong, well, it will make for quite the Thanksgiving Day light show!
You can follow along and plot the asteroid’s path for yourself at NASA’s JPL lab here.