Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2001 December 24
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Asteroid 1998 WT24 Passes Near Earth
Credit & Copyright: S. Gajdos & J. Toth (Comenius U. Bratislava), Modra Observatory

Explanation: Last week, an asteroid approached unusually close to the Earth. Passing well outside the orbit of our Moon, Asteroid 1998 WT24 posed no danger, but became bright enough to see with binoculars and to track with radar. Pictured above, the kilometer-sized asteroid was imaged crossing the sky on December 14, two days before closest approach. Every few years, an asteroid will actually pass inside the orbit of the Moon. Large impact features on the Earth are testaments to asteroids or comets that actually impacted the Earth in the distant past. Astronomers continue to discover, track, and study potentially hazardous asteroids with a goal of making planet Earth a safer place.

Tomorrow's picture: Star Struck Nebula

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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& Michigan Tech. U.