BOSTON (CBS) – A 30-foot bus-sized space rock named 2011 MD, missed the Earth by a mere 7,500 miles on Monday.
Sailing high above over Antarctica, it made its closest approach at 1 p.m. Discovered just five days ago, hundreds of amateur astronomers have looked to the skies to capture the image. Because of its small size and path, the rock was never a threat to the Earth.
“There is a slight potential for it to hit us at some point in the future but even if it hits us, it will not survive its passage through the atmosphere,” said Garis Williams, the associate director of the Minot Planet Center.
WBZ-TV’s Joe Joyce reports.
Williams is in charge of tracking about a half million asteroids in our solar system with approximately 8,000 coming close to Earth.
All this is fairly typical for life in the universe.
“We have had 29 objects just in the past year come within the orbit of the moon,” Williams said.
But, very few asteroids come this close to Earth. To the delight of amateur astronomers, 2011 MD is the 5th closest approach an asteroid has made in recorded history.
It is also the 2nd closest asteroid we have seen just this year. While the rates of asteroids are not increasing, the technology of observation continues to improve.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Laurie Kirby reports.
“It is more telescopes and better computers scanning the images, which come from those telescopes, that the rate of discovery of larger and smaller objects has shot up in recent years,” said Williams.
On average, we can expect an object of this size to come this close to Earth about once every six years.
The chance for viewing Asteroid 2011 has passed. Its next approach will be in the year 2022.