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Asteroid close encounter on April 2

The near-Earth asteroid 2017 FU102 has a very close, but safe, encounter with Earth on April 2, 2017, sweeping to within just over half the moon’s distance.

View larger. | Asteroid 2017 FU102 on April 2, 2017 as captured by the Virtual Telescope Project.

The near-Earth asteroid 2017 FU102 was discovered by the Mt. Lemmon Survey in Arizona (USA) on 29 March 2017. Today (April 2, 2017), it will have a very close, but safe encounter with the Earth (about 0.6 times the mean distance of the moon).

At Virtual Telescope Project, we captured 2017 FU102 while it was safely approaching us. For this, we remotely used a telescope in Arizona, made available to the Virtual Telescope by Tenagra Observatories, Ltd. Above is an image coming from the average of 60-seconds exposure, unfiltered, taken with the 16″-f/3.75 Tenagra III (“Pearl”) unit. The robotic mount tracked the fast apparent motion (120″/minute) of the asteroid, so stars are trailing. The asteroid is perfectly tracked: it is the sharp dot in the center.

On April 2, 2017 at 20:18 UTC (4:18 p.m. EDT; translate to your time zone), this ~10 meters large rock will reach its minimum distance from us of 143,000 miles (230,000 km). That is a bit more than half of the mean distance of the moon.

The observatory is placed at 4,265 feet (1,300 meters) above the sea level, in the Sonoran desert, providing one of the best skies in the world. This image was taken as part of a cooperation between the Virtual Telescope Project and Tenagra Observatories, Ltd., which will be announced soon.

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Bottom line: Photo from Virtual Telescope Project of 2017 FU102, an asteroid that will sweep close to Earth on April 2, 2017.

Gianluca Masi