March 7th, 2016
Stealthy Asteroid “B2Bomber” Closes In
Astronomers Have Lost 2013 TX68
Discovered in 2013, Near Earth-Asteroid 2013 TX86, now nicknamed “B2Bomber”, with an estimated diameter of up to 100 ft, roughly the size of a fully loaded B2Bomber, is racing by Earth this week completely unseen by astronomers. It is thought to be making its close approach to Earth on March 5th. Or March 9th. Or March 6th. And it may pass as close as 15,000 miles. Or as far as 3 million miles. The facts are hard to pin down because astronomers have been unable to detail its orbit. And therein lies the problem. We don’t know much about an asteroid that is just days from making its closest approach to Earth. The large chunk of potentially deadly space rock was last observed only ten days after it was discovered.
Slooh will attempt to recover the B2Bomber live on Thursday, March 10th starting at Midnight EST / 9pm PST (Wednesday, March 9th). Slooh will livesteam the event from its flagship Canary Islands Observatory which will be accompanied by discussions led by Slooh Astronomer, Eric Edelman and scientist Dr. Mark Boslough, an expert on planetary impacts and global catastrophes and frequent participant on many science TV documentaries.
Slooh routinely tracks potentially hazardous objects for the general public to view live (both asteroids and comets) whose sizes are large enough, and whose orbits take them near enough to our planet, that they have the potential to cause significant damage in the event of an impact. Slooh’s live broadcasts have attracted millions of viewers, and Slooh has become a leading voice to help ensure that public awareness does not wane.
In 2014 Slooh announced a partnership with NASA, as part of the Asteroid Grand Challenge, to engage citizen scientists to track and characterize near-Earth asteroids using Slooh’s network of observatories. As members of Slooh, citizen scientists have the unique opportunity to access professional telescope equipment at world class sites to be able to participate in the global challenge to find all asteroids hazardous to human populations.
The B2Bomber is an eye-opening reminder of the potential dangers of asteroid impacts and the importance of acquiring and tracking asteroid orbits. It’s estimated that while 90 percent of the 1000-metre plus sized asteroids have been discovered, only 30% of the 140-metre sized NEAs have been found, with less than 1 percent of the 30-metre sized NEAs having been detected. Even a 30-metre sized asteroid can cause significant damage to a major city.
Says Slooh Astronomer Paul Cox, “What’s disconcerting is that a rocky/metallic body this large, and coming so very close, should have been lost after its initial discovery. Despite the recent doubling of NASA’s budget to track asteroids, the agency relies on amateurs like Slooh members to provide the necessary follow on observations subsequently after discovery in order to precisely determine their orbits.”
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Slooh connects humanity through communal exploration of the universe. We gather people around live telescopes to see space for themselves and share their diverse perspectives. Since 2003, Slooh’s automated observatories have processed celestial images in real-time for broadcast to the Internet. Slooh members have taken over 4m photos/500,000 FITS images of over 50,000 celestial objects, participated in numerous discoveries with leading astronomical institutions and made over 3,000 submissions to the Minor Planet Center. Slooh’s flagship observatories are situated on Mt. Teide, in partnership with the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC), and in Chile, in partnership with the Catholic University. Slooh has also broadcast live celestial events from partner observatories in Arizona, Japan, Hawaii, Cypress, Dubai, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and many more. Slooh’s free live broadcasts of potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs), comets, transits, eclipses, solar activity etc. feature narration by astronomy experts Paul Cox and Bob Berman and are syndicated to media outlets worldwide. Slooh signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA in March 2014 to “Bring the Universe to Everyone and Help Protect Earth, Too.”