An asteroid safely passed by our planet on Saturday night – August 27-28, 2016 – just hours after being detected. Astronomers have labeled the space rock as asteroid 2016 QA2. The rock is estimated to be at least twice as big as the Chelyabinsk meteor that penetrated the atmosphere over Russia in February, 2013.
According to the Minor Planet Center, closest approach to Earth occurred August 28 at 01:24 UTC (9:24 p.m. EDT on August 27; translate to your time zone). The asteroid has an estimated size of 111.5 feet (34 meters), although its exact dimension can range between 52-171 feet (16 to 52 meters).
The speeding space rock came considerably closer than the moon, as it passed at just 0.22 the Earth-moon distance. That’s about 52,580 miles (84,619 km) away. For comparison, the moon is located at some 239,000 miles (384,633 km) from Earth.
Asteroid 2016 QA2 was first seen by the SONEAR Observatory at Oliveira, Brazil.
Using a 17-inch (43-cm) diameter telescope, Gianluca Masi, of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, was able to capture a sequence of images showing the space rock moving across the stars. You can see the images here : http://www.virtualtelescope.net/2016qa2_28aug2016.gif
Asteroid 2016 QA2 discovered. Flyby Aug 28 at 01:24 UT. Dist: 0.23 LD (0.22 LD from Earth surface). Size: 16-52 m. https://t.co/yBx2qOUEp5
— Minor Planet Center (@MinorPlanetCtr) August 28, 2016
Bottom line: Small asteroid 2016 QA2 passed safely on August 27-28, 2016, just hours after discovery.
Eddie Irizarry of the Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe (Astronomical Society of the Caribbean) has been a NASA Solar System Ambassador since 2004. He loves public outreach and has published multiple astronomy articles for EarthSky, as well as for newspapers in Puerto Rico. He has also offered dozens of conferences related to asteroids and comets at the Arecibo Observatory.