2014 KC46 not hit the Earth, word of LBT
The asteroid 2014 KC46 will not hit Earth: confirmation comes from observations made with the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), the large binocular telescope operating in Arizona (USA), and of which the National Institute of Astrophysics is a partner.
2014 KC46 was in fact considered a dangerous asteroid: previous measurements considered it a potential impact for 2091. About the size of a hundred meters in diameter, it has a measure that can cause damage on a global scale. If it was not for LBT, the asteroid would not been known for years, escaping the control of the telescopes in its long wandering in the solar system.
Asteroid 2014 KC46 rediscovered on 28 and 30 October 2014 by a new collaboration between the Italian LBT team and ESA’s NEO Coordination Centre.
Observations of LBT confirm how important is monitoring these heavenly bodies. In this case, however, was all about LBT that, thanks to the quality of its optics and its large field of view, allowed the recalculation of the orbit of the asteroid.
It is the first time that LBT observes one of the so-called “Near-Earth Objects” (NEOs), asteroids potentially at risk of collision with our planet, but it was enough to score one of the most difficult ever observations made in this field.
2014 KC46 was discovered last May and immediately ranked among the asteroids that had a significant probability, however small, to collide with the Earth. Its size made it so a special observed, however, the initial investigations were not sufficiently precise to clarify the situation. These will need to look again at the asteroid to calculate its trajectory with increasing accuracy, up to rule out or confirm definitively the impact. But to hunt for NEO is not easy because of their orbital eccentricities and astronomers just have to chase them before they disappear into the depths of the cosmos to reappear even after years of waiting. KC46 2014 was no exception: the last chance before losing sight of it appeared in November 2014. More than an opportunity in fact it was a challenge because the asteroid, which had now gone beyond the orbit of Mars, it would have been weak and the uncertainties about its position relatively large.
There are many telescopes in the world with the credentials to succeed in such an undertaking, and in the specific case LBT appeared clearly the best. So from NEO Coordination Centre (NEOCC) European Space Agency, which follows, collects, analyzes and makes public data and information on potentially hazardous asteroids to Earth, started a request for cooperation, accepted by the scientific team of the Binocular Telescope and materialized on the nights of 28 and 30 October.
“We, ourselves, were surprised of the results that have appeared before our eyes,” says Adriano Fontana, an INAF astronomer and director of the center of the Italian observations of LBT. “LBT is in fact succeeded in the difficult feat of capturing the faint trace of the asteroid, which reached a magnitude of 26.3. This means that we were able to locate a large object just 100 meters to the distance of the orbit of Mars and 120 billion times less luminous than Sirius, the brightest star in our sky, or, if you like, 4 million billion times less bright than the full moon. A successful discovery only possible thanks to the unique characteristics of LBT: a great leader of view, guaranteed by LBC rooms, combined with the ability to see objects very weak due to the two main mirrors 8.4 meters in diameter that equip the telescope. “