'Lost' asteroid zooms by Earth today: How to watch 2010 WC9

Posted May 15, 2018

The space rock, named 2010 WC9, is approaching Earth for a close encounter on Tuesday, May 15th. The jumbo jet-sized space rock is set to skim by Earth on Tuesday night.

"There are lots of asteroids and comets in our solar system and it's impossible to predict the trajectories of all of these objects, but we need to try", University of Saskatchewan astronomy professor Daryl Janzen said in a statement online.

2010 WC9 is one of almost 10,000 asteroids classified in the Apollo group, which is a class of near-Earth space rocks that cross over our planet's orbit in their trips around the sun.

"Then again on May 10, after it was identified as asteroid 2010 WC9, which had been a lost asteroid for eight years".

Although it's larger than the Chelyabinsk meteor which entered the atmosphere and broke windows in six cities in Russian Federation, this asteroid will just graze past us. According to EarthSky, it will fly past our planet at about 28,655 miles per hour.

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The space rock, dubbed 2010 WC9, spans around 197 to 427 feet and is expected to pass at about half the distance to the Moon (approximately 126,419 miles from Earth) on May 15.

However, this time, it's about a different space rock. Earthsky said the flyby will be "one of the closest approaches ever observed of an asteroid of this size". It reappeared on May 8 and, after mistaking it for a new asteroid, scientists realized it was 2010 WC9 making a return appearance.

Discovered on November 30, 2010 by the Catalina Sky Survey, Arizona, specialized in the detection of this type of objects, it had disappeared from the radar after ten days, as it went away and became too dim to be observed.

It won't be visible to the eye at any point, but with an amateur telescope pointed at the right location and time, it might be bright enough to been seen.

Thanks to Northolt Branch Observatories, you can actually watch it while flying. Nearly eight years later, astronomers realized that an asteroid they temporarily called ZJ99C60 was actually 2010 WC9 returning. The asteroid will proceed pretty quickly (30 minutes of arc per second).