Rare celestial spectacle awaits skygazers

June 24th, 2011 - 3:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, June 24 (IANS) A rare celestial spectacle awaits skygazers Monday when a newly-found asteroid - 2011-MD - will pass between 10,000-12,000 km above earth, a scientist said Friday. It will be visited in India.

“The celestial encounter is going to be so close that earth’s gravity will sharply alter the asteriod’s trajectory,” said Bharat Adur, director of Akash Ganga Centre forAstronomy (AGCA).

At its closest point, 2011-MD - a chunk of rock estimated to be 8 to 18 m across - will pass in daylight over the southern Atlantic Ocean, near Antarctica.

As it recedes away from earth, it will pass through the zone of geosynchronous satellites. But the chances of a collision with a satellite or manmade space-junk are extremely small but not zero, Adur said.

“Judging from its brightness, it measures only 5 to 20 meters in diameter. One would expect an object of this size to come this close to earth about every 6 years on average. For a brief time, it will be bright enough to be seen even with a medium-sized backyard telescope,” Adur told IANS.

However, Adur said the asteroid will be almost invisible from the Pacific and south America but the asteroid should be visible in the preceding hours from the Americas, the Pacific and eastern Asia.

It will also be visible in India, south-west of Cape Horn, Australia, New Zealand, Adur said.

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