A very small asteroid discovered on Nov. 29 is on a path which will bring it very close to Earth on the evening of Dec. 1, but there is no chance that the asteroid could impact our planet. Only about 3 meters (15 feet) in size, the object is predicted to pass so close to Earth that it will be well within the so-called geosynchronous orbit of communications and weather satellites, about 36,000 kilometers (22,000 miles) above the equator.
The asteroid, designated by the Minor Planet Center as 2018 WV1, will pass about 8300 kilometers (5000 miles) inside the orbit of the geosynchronous satellites about half an hour before it reaches its closest point to Earth, which will occur on Dec. 1 at about 7:10 p.m. PST (10:10 p.m. EST or 3:10 UTC Dec. 2), at slightly less than 27,000 kilometers (17,000 miles) above the Earth’s surface. After that, the asteroid will head back out into a new orbit about the Sun, as this close pass by Earth will greatly change its previous orbital path.
2018 WV1 was discovered by the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey, a project based at the University of Arizona in Tucson and which has also discovered nearly a thousand additional near-Earth asteroids in 2018 alone. This new object is very small, and even though it will approach very close to Earth, it will still not be bright enough to be visible in the small telescopes commonly owned by amateur astronomers. At this small size, even if 2018 WV1 had hit Earth, our planet’s atmosphere would likely have broken it up and created only a bright meteor and perhaps a few small meteorites.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA