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17 November 2010

Meteorite Girls help discover VERY close approaching NEO, Asteroid 2010WA 16NOV2010 17NOV2010

Meteorite Girls help discover VERY close approaching NEO, Asteroid 2010WA 

closest at 10:45pm Eastern Standard Time, or 7:45pm Pacific, tonight 16NOV2010
by Richard Kowalski, Catalina Sky Survey
Last night Lisa Marie Morrison and Leigh Anne DelRay Cromwell visited the Catalina Sky Survey's 60" telescope on Mt. Lemmon. 

While they were here they got to see how we observe and survey for NEOs. I commented that while we can find NEOs at any time of the night, they tend to start showing up after midnight, so I wasn't sure if they'd get to see anything other than Main Belt Asteroids.

Within minutes of me saying that a new NEO popped up on the screen. It turns out to be a tiny rock, only about 15 feet in diameter, but it makes a special showing today.

Around 3:45 Universal (
10:45pm Eastern Standard Time, or 7:45pm Pacific, tonight 16NOV2010) time this Near Earth Asteroid, 2010 WA, will make an extraordinary close approach to the Earth, passing a mere 20,000 miles above the surface. That's closer than Geosynchronous orbiting satellites!
  
You will need a large telescope to see it visually or one equipped with a CCD camera. However at closest approach it will be traveling more than one degree per minute across the sky so you'll need to be able to find it and then track it. A bit of a daunting problem, but it should be easier to spot right now as it is making its approach.

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