A small asteroid, designated 2014 RC, will safely pass very close to the Earth on Sunday, 7 September 2014. This small asteroid was initially discovered on the night of 31 August by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson AZ, and independently detected the next night by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, located on the summit of Haleakala on Maui, Hawaii. Both reported their observations to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, MA. Additional follow-up observations by the Catalina Sky Survey and the University of Hawaii 88-inch on Mauna Kea confirmed the orbit of 2014 RC. From its brightness, astronomers estimate that the asteroid is about 20 meters (60 feet) in size.
Based on current calculations, the best estimate for closest approach will be on 7 September, 2014, at about 18:15 UTC (2:15 PM EDT) at approximately 1/10th the distance from the Earth to the Moon, or at about 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles). Its apparent magnitude at closest approach will be about 11.5, rendering it unobservable to the unaided eye. However, amateur astronomers with small telescopes might glimpse the fast moving appearance of this near-Earth asteroid.
The asteroid will pass below the Earth and the geosynchronous ring of communications and weather satellites orbiting 35,890 km (22,300 miles) above our planet’s surface. While this celestial object does not appear to pose any threat to the Earth or satellites, its close approach creates a unique opportunity for researchers to observe and learn more about asteroids.
While 2014 RC will not impact the Earth, its orbit will bring it back to the Earth’s neighborhood in the future. It’s future motion will be closely monitored but no future threatening Earth encounters have been identified.