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TOPIC: Asteroid 2010 AL30


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RE: Asteroid 2010 AL30
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A tiny asteroid that buzzed Earth last week highlighted our planet's vulnerability to objects whose peculiar orbits put them in a game of hide-and-seek with us.
An Earth-based telescope spotted the 10-metre space rock hurtling our way just three days before a near miss on 13 January, when it flew by at just one-third of the distance to the moon. The asteroid is never expected to hit Earth and would burn up before hitting the ground in any case. But its unusual orbit (see diagram) seems ingeniously designed to evade our surveys. It is likely that a handful of objects large enough to cause harm are hiding under similar circumstances.

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Observations of Near Earth Asteroid 2010 AL30 on Jan. 13, 2010 (UTC)

On Jan. 11, 2010 the Linear Automated Sky Survey System identified AL30 as an incoming Near Earth Asteroid (NEO).  Over the next 12-24 hours, various observers improved the orbit determination, and the Harvard Minor Planet Centre (MPC) began putting out revised ephemeris and elements.  Closest approach was estimated to take place on Jan. 13 at approximately 0.34 the distance to the moon when the speed relative to the stars was estimated to be 10a-s/sec at magnitude of about 14-15.  The ephemeris showed that on the evening of Tues Jan 12 AL30 would be well placed in the Eastern sky for observers on the Atlantic coast in the U.S.
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Image (547kb, 1023 x 357)

L'animazione del suo passaggio č stata realizzata da Ernesto Guido e Giovanni Sostero dell'Associazione friulana di astronomia e metereologia

Source (Italian)

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There was speculation that the object could be a manmade rocket stage from an earlier planetary mission, possibly to Venus.
But Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) says that the object's observed orbit "actually makes it very unlikely that 2010 AL30 is a rocket stage".

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Ed ~ indeed, the close approach data for the Venus and earth encounters suggest the approaches were too large.

Earth    4th January, 2005         0.24  AU
Earth    7th January, 2006         0.15  AU
Venus   25th February, 2006     0.011 AU

The Venus exploration mission was launched in November 2005, and arrived at Venus in April 2006

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Radar Astrometry

Object Epoch (UT) Measurement Sigma Units freq rcvr xmit bp ref Observer(s) Notes M
(2010 AL30) 2010-01-13 04:30:00 522184.314 1. Hz 8560 -13 -14 C BROZOVIC,Benner,L. Correction of +1.5 Hz to s16 from CW echoes w/1 Hz res'n. Echo is ~6 Hz wide.
(2010 AL30) 2010-01-13 03:00:00 540757.660 1. Hz 8560 -13 -14 C BROZOVIC,Benner,L. Correction of -19 Hz to s14 from CW echoes w/1 Hz res'n. Echo is ~8 Hz wide.

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An object believed to be a small asteroid that zipped by Earth early Wednesday was captured in a photo taken by a telescope at The University of Alabama.
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Numerical backwards propagation of the orbital state of object 2010 AL30, as determined in January 2010, turns out to appear to lead to a close Venus encounter in spring 2006 and an Earth encounter in late 2005. These epochs are consistent with the Venus arrival and Earth launch dates, respectively, of ESA's Venus Express probe.
From the known approach conditions of Venus Express to Venus one can derive that a target point close above the planet's north pole, as was chosen in that mission, would lead to a deflection of an inert body on the same trajectory, such as the spent Fregat stage, that has a period of 1 year with perihelion and aphelion distances of 0.7 and 1.3 AU, respectively. These orbital parameters closely coincide with those of object 2010 AL30.

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The mystery object is a tiny asteroid dubbed AL30. Its only 33-feet-wide and will miss Earth by 80,000 miles, which is pretty close by any measure. However, this rock is so small it would explode in the atmosphere, unable to cause any damage on the ground.
A Nasa spokesman said the asteroid did not pose a risk with stony asteroids under 25 meters in diameter more likely to burn up in our atmosphere, causing little or no ground damage.
He also dismissed claims it was a man-made object.

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The asteroid 2010 AL30 will make a close pass (0.3241 AU), to the Earth-Moon system on the 27th November, 2010.

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