Small asteroid to sweep close this weekend

Very small asteroid 2018 WV1 on November 30 – slightly more than a day prior to its closest approach to Earth – via Northolt Branch Observatories.

Daniel Bamberger of Northolt Branch Observatories, a private observatory in Northolt, London, U.K., wrote late last night (November 30, 2018) about a small asteroid – just discovered – that will sweep extremely close to Earth Sunday morning, December 2, 2018. The asteroid designated 2018 WV1 will sweep closest at 03:11 UTC on Sunday (10:11 p.m. EST on Saturday; translate to your time). It will come within 0.09 lunar distances (32,911 km / 20,450 miles), making it the third-closest asteroid to pass Earth this year. Its estimated diameter is between 8.2 and 18.3 feet (2.5 and 5.6 meters). Bamberger wrote:

2018 WV1 was found on November 29 at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, U.S. It will make a close encounter on Sunday morning, coming within 27,000 km (16,800 mi) from the Earth’s surface – closer than the geostationary satellites.

Besides its very close approach, 2018 WV1 is interesting for several reasons. One is its very low velocity relative to Earth: This makes it very likely that 2018 WV1 is a piece of lunar ejecta, a fragment of the moon that was ejected into space when a larger asteroid hit the moon a long time ago.

When 2018 WV1 was discovered, the initial orbit showed a 2 percent chance of hitting the Earth in early December. Luckily, that possibility was ruled out soon after.

Even if it had hit us, the object is too small to be a threat.

To help further refine its orbit, we have observed 2018 WV1 tonight from [Northolt Branch Observatories]. The asteroid was at a distance of 285,000 km [177,000 miles] from Earth at that time, and approaching, still a faint object at 19th magnitude.

According to The Watchers, since the beginning of 2018 observatories on Earth have detected 70 asteroids with flyby distance within 1 lunar distance.

Bottom line: Astronomers found asteroid 2018 WV1 on November 29. On December 2, it will pass closer to Earth than geosynchronous satellites.

EarthSky lunar calendars are cool! They make great gifts. Order now. Going fast!

December 1, 2018

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