A Close Encounter with a Small Asteroid
09 June 2014


This illustration shows the orbits of Earth, Mars and asteroid 2014HQ124, which recently approached our planet.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On 8 June 2014, a newly discovered asteroid approached Earth, and passed safely at a distance of about 1.25 million km, over three times the Earth-Moon distance.

Designated 2014 HQ124, the asteroid was discovered on 23 April 2014, by NASA's NEOWISE spacecraft, a space telescope adapted for detecting asteroids and comets. The telescope observes the infrared glow of asteroids, and provides better estimates of their true sizes. The NEOWISE data reveal asteroid 2014 HQ124 to be between 250 and 400 meters across.

"There is zero chance of an impact," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "In fact, it's fairly common for asteroids to pass near Earth. You'd expect an object about the size of 2014 HQ124 to pass this close every few years."

Numerous follow-up observations from ground-based telescopes and amateur astronomers allowed to determine the orbit of the asteroid up to the year 2200, and showed it poses no threat to Earth. Its path will continue to be recomputed past that period, as further observations are obtained.

2014 HQ124 is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA), which refers to those asteroids 140 meters in size or larger that pass within 7.4 million km of Earth's orbit. There are currently 1,484 known PHAs, but none of them poses a significant impact risk.


Aymen Mohamed Ibrahem
Senior Astronomy Specialist
News Center

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