A Close Pass!

Asteroid Gaspra as seen by Galileo on October 29, 1991. NASA/JPL

2011 MD, a newly-discovered asteroid estimated to be between 9 and 45 meters (30 – 150 feet) wide, will pass by Earth at a distance of about 17,700 km (11,000 miles) on Monday, June 27. That’s 23 times closer than the Moon!

The asteroid was discovered on June 22, 2011 by MIT’s Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program using a pair of telescopes in New Mexico that scans the sky for asteroids. Its presence was later confirmed by amateur astronomers in other parts of the world.

Although 2011 MD will miss Earth, even if it were on a direct collision course it would most likely burn up brightly in the atmosphere, perhaps breaking apart into smaller meteorites. It would be a dramatic show but for the most part harmless.

Still, it’s a reminder that these sorts of things are out there, and they do come close – sometimes uncomfortably so!

Read more on Skymania.