Update 6: See the latest 2010 AL30 post for new information and most recent photos.
Update 5: As more observations of 2010 AL30 were submitted to the Minor Planet Center (MPC), the greatest uncertainty (3-sigma/”) for the January 13 fly-by has been reduced from about 500″ to a mere 7″ (MPEC 2010-A65 – 2300 GMT).
Update 4: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Small Body Database now officially classifies 2010 AL30 as a NEO asteroid of type Apollo (Near-Earth asteroids which cross the Earth’s orbit, similar to that of 1862 Apollo, i.e. with semi-major axis, a > 1.0 AU and perihelion distance, q < 1.017 AU).
Update 3: Below is an image of asteroid 2010 AL30 taken by Dave Herald on January 12 at 15h 46m GMT. The asteroid is the dot near the center of the image. Image is a stack of 5 x 4-sec exposures using a 35cm SCT. The CCD was binned to give a 2″ pixel size to give greater sensitivity, and to be consistent with asteroid motion – which was 0.56″/sec at the image time.
Update 2: Thanks to recent observations around the world, the Minor Planet Center (MPC) has improved the orbital uncertainty of 2010 AL30 to 5, which is equivalent to an in-orbit longitude runoff of less than 1692 arcsec / decade (MPEC 2010-A61 – 1251 GMT).
Update 1: Ernesto Guido & Giovanni Sostero we able to follow 2010 AL30 using a Global-rent-a-scope (GRAS) network telescopes in Mayhill, New Mexico, to produce the following composition of 16 10-second long exposures.
Asteroid 2010 AL30 was discovered on January 10 by a 1.0-m f/2.15 reflector + CCD at the Lincoln Laboratory ETS (observers M. Blythe, G. Spitz, R. Brungard, J. Paige, P. Festler), in New Mexico, as a part of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey . The discovery was published in the Minor Planet Electronic Circulars (MPEC) MPEC 2010-A59 issued at 15:43 GMT on January 11.
Strangely enough, preliminary orbit calculations point to orbital period equal almost exactly 1 year (366 days) and its close encounters with Venus could suggest an artificial origin (rocket booster or some other space junk from a spacecraft sent on a mission to Venus in 1985, 2003, or 2006). Nevertheless, since the orbit does not resemble any useful trajectory and the object’s encounter velocity with the Earth is not unusually low (9.5 km/sec), the period is most likely a coincidence and 2010 AL30 is a typical NEO with an ordinary Earth-crossing orbit (with MOID = 0.000 037 963 AU = 5 680 km)
Since the object is almost on an impact trajectory, this is a great example of how much warning time we have for an object with H = 27.0 (about 10-20m). 2010 AL30 also approaches the Earth from the night side, from almost exactly opposite direction than the Sun (just 15 degrees off of the exact anti-solar direction). Were coming from the other side of the sky (solar direction), we would not see it until hours after the closest approach.
During the close approach, the asteroid will be best observed a few hours before passing the perigee (January 13, 12:47 GMT) from Hawaii, New Zealand and the east coast of Australia, traveling through the constellations of Canis Minor, Orion, and Taurus. Shortly after the closest approach, the object’s brightness will drop dramatically and with elongation below 20 degrees, 2010 Al30 will disappear in the sunlight. Below is a sky chart with the (approximate) apparent position of 2010 AL30 between January 12 and January 14.