Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps.  51 & 52: Asteroid 2007 VK184 Eliminated As An Impact Risk & Another Large Bright Suddenly Appearing Asteroid

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • Dr. David Tholen used the CFHT to track 2007 VK184. This asteroid will never get closer to us than about 6 Lunar distances.
  • Fortunately 1/4 mile diameter 2014 KP4 never gets closer to the Earth than about 18 lunar distances.

Bio: Dr. Al Grauer is currently an observing member of the Catalina Sky Survey Team at the University of Arizona.  This group has discovered nearly half of the Earth approaching objects known to exist. He received a PhD in Physics in 1971 and has been an observational Astronomer for 43 years. He retired as a University Professor after 39 years of interacting with students. He has conducted research projects using telescopes in Arizona, Chile, Australia, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Georgia with funding from NSF and NASA.

He is noted as Co-discoverer of comet P/2010 TO20 Linear-Grauer, Discoverer of comet C/2009 U5 Grauer and has asteroid 18871 Grauer named for him.

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39E51 – Asteroid 2007 VK184 – Eliminated As An Impact Risk to Earth

On November 12, 2007, Alex Gibbs, using the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey Schmidt telescope, discovered a bright fast moving asteroid.  It was then observed by telescopes in Italy, England, Arizona, California, and Australia and given the name 2007 VK184.

This asteroid created a considerable amount of interest since, until recently, it posed the most significant threat of Earth impact of any known object for the next 100 years.  It is about 1 and a half football fields in diameter.  

The observations of 2007 VK184 for the 52 days following its discovery indicated that there was a chance of 1 in 2700 that this asteroid would impact the Earth on June 3, 2048.  This is a serious warning since if it entered the Earth’s atmosphere and struck sedimentary rock it would release the energy of a large hydrogen bomb and create a crater more than a mile in diameter.  Statistically an asteroid of this size is expect to strike the Earth about every 11,000 years.

In March of 2014 Dr. David Tholen used the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope at the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii to detect and track 2007 VK184.  His observations, the first in more than 5 years, were used to calculate a new orbit.  Fortunately, the new path poses no treat to the Earth and indicates that this asteroid will never get closer to us than about 6 times the distance to our Moon.   

40E52 – Another Large Bright Suddenly Appearing Asteroid

An unknown, quarter of a mile diameter asteroid, reached its furthest distance from the Sun on June 17, 2012.  At this point it was 80% of the way from the Sun to Jupiter. The next day it began to accelerate under the relentless pull of the Sun’s gravity.  On January 05, 2014 it crossed the orbit of Mars and was traveling at 28 mi/sec relative to the Sun.  

By the time it reached the Earth’s orbit on February 12, 2014 it was traveling at a speed of 27 miles/sec relative to our planet.  Even though it was bright enough to be spotted, it evaded detection as it streaked by.  It reached its closest point to the Sun on March 27, 2014 at which time was slightly further away from the Sun than the planet Mercury.  

It brightened 10,000 times as it approached and crossed the Earth’s orbit. Several days later, astronomers at the SONEAR Observatory, in Brazil discovered it as it continued to move away from the Sun.  It was then observed by telescopes in Australia, New Mexico, Japan, Ukraine,  and New Zealand and given the name 2014 KP4.  It orbits the Sun every 3 and 1/2 years . 

It is the second,  bright, fast moving Potentially Hazardous Asteroid found in less than a month.  Fortunately it never gets closer to the Earth than about 18 times the distance to our Moon.  We will continue to observe to make sure that it does not become on an impact trajectory with the Earth as it passes other objects in space.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Planetary Science Institute. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at or email us at This year we will celebrates the Year of Everyday Astronomers as we embrace Amateur Astronomer contributions and the importance of citizen science. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!

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