2010 RF12: A second asteroid will buzz the Earth today

2010 RF12 is the second asteroid today to make a close pass at the Earth. Well, relatively close. It'll scoot between the Earth and Moon, passing about 49,000 miles away,

Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA
Two small asteroids (2010 RF12 and 2010 RX30) in unrelated orbits will pass within the moon's distance of Earth on Wednesday.

No need to duck and cover.

And too late to call Bruce Willis to assemble a team of asteroid busters, à la Armageddon.

The first of two asteroids swung past the Earth early Wednesday morning, skirting us by about 150,000 miles.

The second asteroid, 2010 RF12, will buzz by shortly after 5 p.m. EDT, today.

The Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., discovered both objects Sunday morning, Sept. 5, during a routine monitoring of the skies, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The second and smaller of the two asteroids, 2010 RF12, is estimated to be 20 to 46 feet across and will pass within about 49,088 miles (79,000 kilometers) of the Earth.

The first asteroid, 2010 RX30, was 32 to 65 feet across.

If either had collided with the Earth, how much of a risk would they pose? Are they big enough to cause serious damage?

It's hard to tell, according to a Universe Today blog on the two asteroids. But author Jon Voisey speculates that "The majority of the mass for such small objects would burn up in the atmosphere with only small fragments surviving to the ground. For comparison, the estimated size of the object that caused the Tunguska event was estimated to be at least a few tens of meters in diameter at the point it exploded in the atmosphere some few miles up."

NASA's Donald Yeomans, manager of the Near Earth Program, told CNN that this kind of near miss is good practice, and indicates room for improvement given that the incoming objects were only spotted Sunday. "This demonstrates the system's working on some level, but we need larger telescopes and more of them to find objects that are coming this close."

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