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.
Bottom line: Photo from Virtual Telescope Project of 2017 FU102, an asteroid that will sweep close to Earth on April 2, 2017.
Gianluca Masi is an Italian astrophysicist and founder of the Virtual Telescope project (part of Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory), consisting in several robotic telescopes, remotely available in real-time over the Internet. Through this system, real-time, online observing sessions are performed, sharing the universe with the world. More than 1 million individuals each year observe the sky through the Virtual Telescope. Gian started his interest in astronomy at childhood, later becoming a professional astronomer, earning a PhD in astronomy in 2006. At the same time, he devoted a lot of efforts to science communication. The asteroid (21795) is named “Masi” in his honor.