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Huge Asteroid Slipped Through Net - NASA

PostPosted: September 20th, 2019, 8:27 pm
by toucana
The largest asteroid to pass as close to the Earth in a century “slipped through” Nasa’s detection systems, internal emails reveal.

Named 2019 OK by scientists, the asteroid nearly passed by undetected as it came five times closer to Earth than the moon, documents obtained by Buzzfeed via freedom of information requests revealed.

It was first detected by a Brazilian observatory on 24 July just hours before coming within roughly 73,000km of Earth. Nasa’s failure to spot the 100-metre wide space rock highlighted longstanding concerns about a lack of US government funding for asteroid detection efforts.

“This object slipped through a whole series of our capture nets, for a bunch of different reasons,” Dr Paul Chodas, manager of Nasa’s Centre for Near Earth Object Studies, wrote to colleagues on 26 July.

Nasa telescopes did spot the asteroid on 7 July, but it was moving too slowly to be identified as a near-Earth object. By the time it sped up it was too close to a nearly full moon for astronomers to detect, according to the emails.

A planetary defence officer at Nasa had written that 2019 OK appeared to be the largest asteroid to pass so close to earth in the last century. Another such event was not expected to occur until 2029, they said.

The US congress has tasked the space agency with detecting, tracking and cataloguing 90 per cent of objects larger than 140 metres in diameter that pass close to the Earth by 2020.