Washington, Jan 24: Astronomers will get a chance to get a close look at an asteroid, referred to as 2007 TU24, which will approach Earth to within 334,000 miles on January 29, 2008.
Discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey on October 11, 2007, the asteroid is between 150 and 600 meters in diameter, and will reach an approximate apparent magnitude 10.3 on Jan 29, before quickly becoming fainter as it moves further from Earth. Astronomers and avid space watchers would be able to observe this asteroid for a brief time in dark and clear skies with amateur telescopes of 3-inch apertures or larger. Given the estimated number of near-Earth asteroids of this size (about 7,000 discovered and undiscovered objects), an object of this size would be expected to pass this close to Earth, on average, about every 5 years or so.
2007 TU24 will be the closest currently known approach by a potentially hazardous asteroid of this size or larger until 2027.
But though the average interval between actual Earth impacts for an object of this size would be about 37,000 years, asteroid 2007 TU24, in spite of being near Earth, has no chance of hitting, or affecting the planet.
Plans have been made for the Goldstone planetary radar to observe this object on Jan 23-24 and for the Arecibo radar to observe it on Jan 27-28 and then Feb 1-4.
High-resolution radar imaging is expected, which may permit later 3-D shape reconstruction.