Another asteroid skims past Earth

Earth had a near miss with a passing asteroid this week. The space rock, labelled 2008 VM, was only discovered on Monday (3 November) at 5.49 UT as it raced towards us.

Asteroid Gaspra from Galileo in 1991Hours later, at 22.29 UT, it skimmed by at a distance of just 28,000 miles – around an eighth as far the moon.

The find was made by a robotic telescope in Arizona, part of the Catalina Sky Survey which constantly scans the sky for potentially hazardous objects. The cosmic missile is thought to have been around 3 meters wide (10ft).

It came just a month after a similar sized space rock scored a direct hit on Earth, crashing in a remote part of the Sudan on 7 October.

Neither asteroid was large enough to do any damage, but they show once again the importance of campaigns such as Spaceguard in watching out for larger objects that could cause untold devastation. An impact with an asteroid called Apophis in 2036 has still not been ruled out, although the chances are slim.

Picture: A larger asteroid called Gaspra, photographed by the Galileo spaceprobe in 1991.

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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