Near-miss asteroid snapped by amateurs

Recently an asteroid the size of a bus passed by the Earth with a speed of 12,000 miles per hour. At its closest approach it was only a few thousand miles from the surface of Earth, which is much closer than many of the satellites which orbit the Earth. Amateur astronomer and Astronomy Now's equipment consultant Nick Howes coordinated the team which observed this interesting and fast moving object, with LCOGT network.

Nick had been made aware of the asteroid only a few days earlier reading the Skymania blog on its discovery, and checking the MPC website on the Friday prior to the Monday close approach, it was clear this would be a tricky target to image, given it's high predicted speed.

The asteroid was first spotted by the LINEAR (Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research) telescopes in New Mexico on 22 June, which scan the skies for potentially hazardous asteroids, and was subsequently confirmed and imaged by UK amateur observer Peter Birtwhistle, who has discovered well over one hundred asteroids himself. The asteroid, known as 2011MD, posed no threat to the Earth, despite coming within 12,000 kilometres at closest approach.

Nick started the observing campaign on Faulkes Telescope South in Siding Spring , Australia with the BBC Stargazing Live's Mark Thompson. The news story which resulted from Thompson and Howes's imaging has already featured in National Geographic, several National UK newspapers, Discovery Channel Science and was also aired on Fox TV News in the USA.

Howes and his team are conducting further investigations on NEO objects and comets, with the LCOGT network (and working in partnership with Faulkes Telescope Project, a UK educational affiliate of LCOGT) and posting regular updates via Twitter on the on the latest developments.

For more astronomy news you can follow Nick Howes (@NickAstronomer), Mark Thompson (@peoplesastro) and LCOGT (@lcogt)on Twitter.