Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Interesting Asteroid

On 22-Feb-2006, an interesting 16 meter "asteroid" named "2006 DQ14" passed by the Earth with a miss distance of about 5.2 Lunar Distances (about 2 million km, or 1.2 million miles).

What's the big deal about this? Well, the orbit of this "asteroid" was calculated, and it's roughly equivalent to the Earth's own orbit around the sun. Working backwards in time, they figured out that the last time we had close approaches with this object was in the 1977-1979 timeframe.

The interplanetary spacecraft Voyager 2 launched on 5-Sep-1977. It just so happens that a "near miss" of this "asteroid" occurred on 8-Sep-1977. Coincidence? Or is this object actually a piece of space junk from the Voyager 2 mission, like a rocket body stage or something else?

It's scary to think that a huge part of a rocket launched in 1977 could actually slam back into the Earth decades (or centuries) later with no warning at all.

Here's NASA JPL's asteroid orbit applet: