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.

September 1, 1999
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

1999 JM8: A Rock Too Close
Credit: L. Benner (JPL) et al., NAIC, NASA

Explanation: Nearly four kilometers across, the huge rock known as 1999 JM8 silently passed only 8.5 million kilometers from the Earth in early August. The small asteroid was completely unknown before May. Every few centuries, a rock like this impacts the Earth, with the potential to disrupt modern civilization. Radar from two of the largest radio telescopes, Arecibo and Goldstone, tracked and imaged the Apollo asteroid as it approached to only 22 times the distance to the Moon. Although 1999 JM8 missed the Earth, thousands of similar but unknown asteroids likely exist that cross Earth's orbit. In fact, four asteroids have passed inside the orbit of the Moon within the last decade. Possibly of larger concern to humanity are the more numerous rocks near 100 meters across. Were one of these to strike an ocean, a dangerous tidal wave might occur.

Tomorrow's picture: Eclipse Over The Mountain

< Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | Glossary | Education | About APOD >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.