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Newly Found Asteroid Just Made a Close Encounter With Earth

Sep 08, 2016 04:47 AM EDT
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An asteroid has just made a close - but safe - encounter with the Earth. The newly discovered space rock named 2016 RB1 buzzed by Earth on Wednesday at around 1:28 pm Eastern Time. The asteroid came close at approximately 38,463 km (23,900 miles) of the planet, which is about one-tenth the average distance between Earth and the moon.

According to NASA's Near-Earth Object (NEO) Program, RB1 passed by Earth at a speed of over 18,000 mph and came slightly close to television and communication satellites, which orbit the Earth at an altitude of 35,900 km (22,300 miles). But there is no reason to panic; scientists said there is no risk of the asteroid hitting the Earth, Earthsky reports.

The asteroid 2016 RB1, which measures between 4 to 14 meters (13 to 46 feet) wide, was first detected during the early hours of Monday, Sept. 5, through the Mt. Lemmon Survey's 60-inch Cassegian Telescope at the University of Arizona. According to scientists, the rock belongs to the Asten group of asteroids, which are NEOs that orbit the inner solar system, crossing the orbits of Earth, Venus and Mercury.

People observing from the Southern Hemisphere could have seen the asteroid during its closest approach. Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy captured images of the asteroid as it came close to Earth on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

According to astronomers, RB1 is not the first asteroid to brush closely to Earth this year. A much bigger asteroid called 2016 QA2 came as close as 80,000 km (50,000 miles) near the Earth.

NASA is slated to launch its asteroid-sampling mission OSIRIS-REx on Sept. 8, which aims to collect a sample from the dark and potentially dangerous asteroid Bennu and bring it back to Earth to study organic elements in the rock that are believed to be the building blocks of life on Earth.

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