September 21, 2019

12.01.10: Asteroid 2010 AL30 to Make a Close Pass Wednesday.

An interloper to the Earth-Moon system is paying us a visit tomorrow. Asteroid 2010 AL30 is gliding past us at a distance of 78,000 miles, only a little over three times the distance of the geosynchronous satellites and about one –third the Earth-Moon distance, an approach worth noting. First detected by astronomers conducting the LINEAR Near Earth Object survey on Monday, January 11th, 2010 AL30 appears to be a 10-meter class object, and its one year solar orbit raises the possibility that it may be a spent man-made object currently in orbit about the Sun. This has occurred previous, with the recovery of J002E3 in 2002, which gave away its Earthly manufacture due to the presence of titanium oxide paint (a highly un-asteroid-like coating!) in its spectral signature. Interestingly, the final stage Apollo boosters that sent men to the Moon were about 18 meters long and about 7 meters in diameter. Some objections have been raised ABOUT this hypothesis, however, because 2010 AL30’s velocity is inconsistent with a man-made object. Goldstone radar intends to monitor AL30 during its pass Wednesday, January 13th 2010. Amateur astronomers with large apertures and/or CCD imaging capability should be able to pick up AL30 as a swift moving, 14th magnitude (think faint) star gliding through the constellations Orion, Taurus, and Pisces. Chalk up another miss in the Near Earth Object category!