A small asteroid will fly past Earth around lunchtime, South African time, today. The US space agency, NASA, says the asteroid, 2010 TD54, will have its closest approach to Earth’s surface at an altitude of about 45,000 kilometers at 6.50am EDT (12.50 SA standard time).
At that time, the asteroid will be over southeastern Asia in the vicinity of Singapore, NASA says. “During its flyby, Asteroid 2010 TD54 has zero probability of impacting Earth.”
A telescope of the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey north of Tucson, Arizona discovered 2010 TD54 on October 9 during routine monitoring of the skies. 2010 TD54 is estimated to be about five to 10 meters (16 to 33 feet) wide. Due to its small size, the asteroid would require a telescope of moderate size to be viewed. A five-meter-sized near-Earth asteroid from the undiscovered population of about 30 million would be expected to pass daily within a lunar distance, and one might strike Earth’s atmosphere about every 2 years on average. If an asteroid of the size of 2010 TD54 were to enter Earth’s atmosphere, it would be expected to burn up high in the atmosphere and cause no damage to Earth’s surface.
NASA detects, tracks and characterises asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.