Press Coverage of Flyby Sept 7 of small NEA 2014 RC

The small 20-m diameter NEA (about the same size as the Chelyabinsk meteor) flew by Earth on Sept 7, with a closest approach of 0.1 lunar distances. It is among the smallest known NEAs, and it was discovered just a week before close approach. Observations during the flyby showed that its rotation period is only 16 seconds. It was detected by radar, but because of the rapid rotation, the radar return was spread out in frequency, reducing the received signal strength. Current information on this object is posted on the JPL NEO website.

Unfortunately there was considerable media hype about this NEA flyby, partly generated when it began to be called Pit Bull, an illegitimate and provocative name. There was never any possibility of 2014 RC hitting the Earth, and JPL Sentry orbit calculations show no danger from later close passes for at least the next century. The situation was further complicated by a claim – certainly false – that a fragment of this asteroid hit in Nigaragua about 12 hours after the asteroid closest approach. One example of this deceptive reporting is in the following CNN story [] which begins:  “A meteorite crashed down in Managua, Nicaragua, late Saturday night, causing a loud explosion and leaving a crater 39 feet (12 meters) across, government officials said, according to The Associated Press. No damage or injuries were reported. AP quoted government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo as saying they’ve determined it was a “relatively small” meteorite that “appears to have come off an asteroid that was passing close to Earth.” “ Other similar reports have appeared, in spite of efforts by NASA, JPL, and members of the science community pointing out that this is unlikely to be a meteorite crater and that in any case it could not be related to 2014 RC.

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