Wednesday, 29 June 2011

I missed it, and it missed me

Darn. I missed it. It seems that while I was in the midst of writing my chess article for The Star earlier this week, I was blissfully unaware that a small bus-sized space rock called the Asteroid 2011MD had whistled very close to the Earth, passing over the southern Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Antartica, at 1.01am (GMT 17:01 hours) on Tuesday morning.

The asteriod was so close that it was nearer to us than the moon. It was so close that sky-viewers called it one of those frequent, pesky Near-Earth Objects that could bore, irritate, excite, alarm or panic us. At its closest approach, 2011MD was within 12,000km from the Earth. By comparison, the moon is about 380,000km away.

But those folks at NASA assured that the asteroid posed no real threat to me. Even if it had come hurtling down into the atmosphere, it would have disintegrated and only put up an impressive sky show, considering that it is now winter in the southern hemiphere where there is barely any daylight, if at all, over the Antartic continent.

When the asteroid was approaching Earth, there were many amateur astronomy enthusiasts that tried to capture snapshots of the flyby. For example, this picture above which I copied from the Internet. From what I know, this was a 10-second camera exposure and a lot of background noise was picked up in the process. Still, it's exciting to see the streak of light against the relatively stationery position of the stars in the background.

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