Newly-discovered asteroid 2011 GP59 is flying past Earth today

Newly-discovered asteroid 2011 GP59 is flying past Earth today, April 15th, not far beyond the orbit of the Moon (1.4 LD). The 50-meter space rock is remarkable: It is elongated and spinning once every 7.5 minutes. This causes the asteroid to flash like a strobe light.

2011 GP59 orbit. Credit: Nasa/JPL
The 2011 GP59 was discovered the night of April 8/9 by astronomers with the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca in Andalusia, Spain. It will make its closest approach to Earth on April 15 at 19:09 UTC (12:09 p.m. PDT) at a distance just beyond the moon's orbit - about 533,000 kilometers (331,000 miles).

"Although newly discovered, the near-term orbital location of asteroid 2011 GP59 can be accurately plotted," said Yeomans. "There is no possibility of the small space rock entering Earth's atmosphere during this pass or for the foreseeable future."

A video taken by Joe Pollock of Appalachian State University on April 11th shows the effect nicely. Experienced amateur astronomers using mid-sized telescopes can watch 2011 GP59 strobe through the constellations Virgo and Hydra tonight with a peak brightness near 13th magnitude.

source: spaceweather


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