Wednesday, January 27, 2010

NASA Sky-Mapping Spacecraft Spots First New Asteroid

NASA's latest sky-mapping space telescope has found an asteroid never-before-seen from Earth, the first of hundreds of new objects the telescope is expected to find.

The near-Earth object, designated 2010 AB78, was discovered by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, on Jan. 12. The space rock doesn't appear to pose any threat to Earth, NASA officials said.

The newfound asteroid is currently about 98 million miles (158 million km) from Earth and has an estimated diameter of 0.6 miles (I km).

The rock comes as close to the sun as Earth does, but because it circles the sun in an elliptical orbit tilted with respect to the Earth's orbital plane, the asteroid isn't thought to come near enough to our planet to pose a hazard. Scientists will monitor the asteroid though to make sure it doesn't pose an impact threat.

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