2010 AL30 – Latest info and more photos

January 13, 2010 12:54 by scibuff

Update 2: JPL Small Body Database has been updated with radar data for 2010 AL30.

Update 1: Bernhard Haeusler (B82 Maidbronn, Germany) posted an animation of the NEO asteroid 2010 AL30, 100 x 2s. exposure, taken on January 13 between 01:01 and  01:16 GMT (~13MB).

Today, at 12:46 GMT, the asteroid with temporary designations 2010 AL30, discovered on January 10 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey, flew by our planet at the distance of 0.000 86 AU (129,060 km; about 33% of the distance to the Moon). Within the next few hours, its brightness and elongation will drop dramatically and the object will disappear until the next (relatively) close approach in August 2028 (0.079 35 AU ~ 11.87 mil. km).

Thanks to photometric observations from around the world, pointing uncertainties have shrunk from about 523 arcseconds (3-sigma) to about 7 arcseconds. The new orbit calculations were accurate enough to point the radio telescopes of the Goldstone Observatory in Mojave Dessert at the asteroid. Early in the morning, between 02:20 and 04:20 GMT, astronomers were able to obtain valuable radar data which will dramatically improve the object’s orbit and provide additional information on its size and shape.

Lance Benner of NASA/JPL reported strong radar echoes from 2010 AL30 at Goldstone. The bandwidth was consistent with the asteroid’s expected size (10-20m). Bill Ryan and Richard Miles determined the rotation period to be roughly 9 minutes.

2010 AL30 imaged by a SLOOH telescope on January 13 at 03:02 GMT

2010 AL30 imaged by a SLOOH telescope on January 13 at 03:02 GMT - Credit: Tavi Greiner / SLOOH

The image above displays 2010 AL30 taken by the SLOOH robotic observatory on the Canary Islands. The SLOOH space camera takes gray-scale image. To make a color image, the camera takes exposures with different filters. The individual filtered images are later combined into a single color image (just as the red, green and blue channels are combined to form a color picture). Because the asteroid was relatively close, long exposure left trails as the object moved relatively to background stars. Since different color filters were used at different times, in this case red was used first, then green and finally blue, the individual color trails do not overlap in the final image and reveal the tricolored line.

Series of 30 15" exposures tracking on 2010 AL30

Series of 30 15" exposures tracking on 2010 AL30 between 07:18:16 and 07:27:29 GMT - Credit: Patrick Wiggins

Series of 73 1" exposures tracking 2010 AL30 at normal sidereal rate between 06:38:42 and 06:44:25 GMT; - Credit: Patrick Wiggins

The two captures above are compositions of series of exposures Patrick Wiggins took with a C-14 @ f/5.5 telescope and SBIG ST-10 binned 3×3 using clear filter. The Field of View (FOV) is about 18′ x 26′.  Note that in the second one the target is pretty faint (not surprising for 1″ exposures) so you have to look close to see it as it moves from left to right.

2010 AL30 imaged on January 12 from the distance of 0.003 7 AU at the Nazaret Observatory at the Canary Islands

2010 AL30 imaged on January 12 from the distance of 0.003 7 AU at the Nazaret Observatory at the Canary Islands - Credit: Gustavo, Muler, Schteinman - Observatorio Nazaret, J47

Click on the image above to see the apparent motion of 2010 AL30. Also, here is a composition of  200 images (~ 10MB).

Trajectory of Asteroid 2010 AL30 Past Earth on January 12/13, 2010

Trajectory of Asteroid 2010 AL30 Past Earth on January 12/13, 2010 - Credit: NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office (Don Yeomans, Paul Chodas, Steve Chesley & Jon Giorgini)

Because of the unusual orbital period of 2010 AL30, which is almost precisely 1 year (366 days) some have suggested it could have been a man-made rocket stage in orbit about the Sun. Nevertheless, trajectory extrapolations show that the object cannot be associated with any recent launch and it has not made any close approaches to the Earth since well before the Space Age began (the last relatively close approach occurred at 08:09 GMT on August 17, 1947 when 2010 AL30 passed the Earth at the distance of 0.038 97 AU ~ 5.8 mil. km). Therefore, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Small Body Database has officially classified 2010 AL30 as a Near-Earth Object (NEO) 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).

In the end,  the story of 2010 AL30 had a happy ending for inhabitants of the planet Earth; we’ve dodged yet another bullet. Even if 2010 AL30 had been on a collision course with our planet, it posed only a minimal risk as it would have certainly break up in Earth’s atmosphere. According to NASA/JPL one could expect a near-Earth asteroid of this size to pass within the moon’s distance about once every week on average.

For more 2010 AL30 images, fly-by animation and the apparent orbit sky chart see my earlier post.

2010 AL30 – More info including a fly-by animation

January 12, 2010 11:19 by scibuff

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.

Image of asteroid 2010 AL30

Image of asteroid 2010 AL30 taken on Jan 12 at 15h 46m GMT with a 35cm Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope - Credit: Dave Herald

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.

2010 AL30 follow-up on Jan 12.37 through the Global Rent-a-Scope (GRAS) Network

2010 AL30 follow-up on Jan 12.37 through the Global Rent-a-Scope (GRAS) Network using a scope located in Mayhill (NM) - Credit: Ernesto Guido & Giovanni Sostero

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.

Animation of 2010 AL30 near Earth fly by on January 13, 2010 - Credit: Gerhard Dangl

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.

The apparent orbit of the asteroid during 2010 AL30, 12 January 00:00 GMT to 14 January 06:00 GMT

The apparent orbit of the asteroid during 2010 AL30, 12 January 00:00 GMT to 14 January 06:00 GMT - Credit: Gerhard Dangl

First close miss of 2010

January 11, 2010 20:41 by scibuff

Update 3: See the latest 2010 AL30 post for new information and most recent photos.

Update 2: See my new post for more photos and fly-by animation.

Update 1: See the my most recent 2010 AL30 post for updates and a fly-by animation.

On Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 12:48 GMT, a newly discovered asteroid with temporary designation 2010 AL30 will fly by the Earth at the distance of 0.000 86 AU (129,060 km; about 33% of the distance to the Moon). The asteroid has a diameter of approximately 10-25 meters and poses no risk to anyone, as not only is the calculated perigee distance quite accurate, but in a case of the encounter with Earth’s atmosphere, it would certainly break up and rain down only a few small fragments (meteorites).

At around 10 UT on January 13, the object could reach a maximum brightness of 13.8 magnitude and despite a large relative motion (about 10 arcsec/second) should be easily observable with a medium size equipment.

Orbit Diagram of 2010 AL 30

Orbit Diagram of 2010 AL 30 - Source: NASA JPL

2010 AL30 will also have closer encounters with our Moon (January 14, 2010 at 0.001 86 AU), Mars (July 24, 2039 at 0.089 6 AU) and several close encounters with Venus (May 16, 2012, August 2, 2016, January 5, 2037, etc.)