The agency has called on astronomers with telescopes over 300mm to point their telescopes at the night skies on Thursday and Friday as the asteroid makes its closest approach to Earth.
Observers in the southern hemisphere will have the best view of the asteroid during its near approach to Earth over these dates, with those in the northern hemisphere having to wait until the 19th of December for their chance to spot the asteroid.
The asteroid, known as 2015 RN35, is a medium-sized asteroid and will pass the Earth at a distance of approximately 686,000 kilometres between the 15th and 17th of December.
According to the ESA, the asteroid poses no threat to Earth. Despite this, the object is still of significant interest to the ESA’s Planetary Defence Office.
By gathering data and studying the asteroid, the Planetary Defence Offence can gain critical information regarding near-Earth asteroids.
“Near-Earth asteroids fascinate ESA’s Planetary Defence Office in particular because they give us key insights into the composition and trajectory of potentially hazardous objects,” said the ESA in a statement.
“This asteroid isn’t well known,” the statement continued.
“We don’t know what it’s made of or precisely how big it is or if it’s spinning on its axis or even know its orbit particularly well.”
In order to gather more information about the asteroid, the ESA has released an “asteroid toolkit” for would-be observers to help locate the asteroid and then gather and submit their data.
The toolkit was created by the ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre (NEOCC), which has its headquarters in Rome, Italy.
The information system manager of the NEOCC, Juan-Luis Cano, spoke about the asteroid toolkit.
“We use these tools every day to plan our observations, to visualise asteroid close approaches and to help us understand and explain the varied asteroid populations in the solar system and the risk we face.”
“We want them to be as useful to the rest of the world as they are to us, because planetary defence is a global effort,” he said.
The head of ESA’s Planetary Defence Office, Richard Moissl, also praised the initiative, saying the kit would allow users to visualise the object and provide critical information for observing and emphasising the importance of the data gathered.
“With these observations, we determine the motion of asteroids and project their path into the future, in order to know if — when — an asteroid could strike.”
“As the recent DART impact showed, and as ESA’s Hera mission will expand on, with enough warning, an asteroid impact is the only natural disaster we can prevent.”
Liam McAneny is a journalist who has written and edited for his University International Relations journal. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Wollongong in 2021. He joined Momentum Media in 2022 and currently writes for SpaceConnect and Australian Aviation. Liam has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations as well as astronomy.
Send Liam an email at: [email protected]
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