Mile-wide asteroid zooms “close” to Earth

No one bothered making catastrophic movies about it, but this past weekend, a hunk of rock dubbed 2006 VV2 passed within about two million miles of Earth, specifically Southern California. Given this location overhead, in the late 1980s it might have been suspected of being a wayward mass of crack cocaine, but astronomers have determined that 2006 VV2 is in fact a much more conventional object.
With an apparent magnitude of 10.0, it can be seen with a fair-sized amateur telescope, but lies well outside the threshold of detection of the unaided eye, which can pick up celestial objects as dim as about 5.5 to 6.0 in magnitude.
As noted in the Sky & Telescope piece, approaches of this sort are not rare. Five years ago, two much smaller asteroids passed within 80,000 miles of our planet — only one third the distance to the Moon. (The mean distance of the earth to the sun is about 93,000,000 miles.) I don’t know exactly what would occur worldwide if a 160-meter-wide brick smashed into, say, Siberia, but I have a decent idea of what might happen if it touched down in my back yard, or at the Texaco station up yonder.
Fans of Armageddon and Deep Impact as well as the generally apocalypse-oriented may find fascination in the database of near-Earth objects.

  1. #1 by Warren on April 2, 2007 - 3:01 pm

    160m wouldn’t lead to a K-T style extinction (that body was about 10 Km in diameter) but it would make a hell of a big noise and probably give us some really interesting sunsets for a year or so.

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