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A recently discovered asteroid, 2002 NY40, will make a close call on planet Earth on Sunday, 18 August when it will zip past us at a distance of merely 530,000 kilometres, that is, slightly further than the Moon's average distance from the Earth. At closest approach, it will be visible in a small telescope for viewers in Northern Ireland.

Image from Sky and Telescope
Click on it for more information.

2002 NY40 was discovered using the 1-metre LINEAR telescope based in New Mexico, USA on 14 July. It is estimated to be about half-a-kilometre across and is travelling in an orbit with a low inclination to the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, in a period of about 3 years. A collision with such an object would inflict severe devastation on our planet. However, there is no danger of a collision with this object this time around, but it cannot yet be ruled out that it will haunt us in future years, the first such possible event being around 18 August in twenty years time.

On the night of 17 August this year, at around 11:00pm for observers in Northern Ireland, the asteroid will be at an altitude of 35 - 40 degrees roughly south-south-east, somewhat below and to the left of the bright star Altair and below the diamond-shaped constellation Delpinus. Star charts showing the path of NY40 during the night of 17/18 August may be obtained from Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG.

Every opportunity should be taken to observe the asteroid on its inward journey, as within hours of closest approach, the asteroid will rapidly become fainter as it travels in the general direction of the Sun with its unilluminated surface facing Earth.

Local Links:
Daily Map of Asteroids
Daily Map of Asteroids Near to Earth

External Links:
The Cosmic Mirror
Sky and Telescope
Space Daily
BBC News

Last Revised: 2002 August 7th
WWW contact: webmaster@star.arm.ac.uk
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