false alarm

minor scare on the Minor Planet Circulars the other day

an apparent new object, 2007 VN84 was tagged as a potential impactor, with an estimated closest approach of 12,000 km or less - two Earth diameters.
IAUC 20 issues an alert. - The relevant column is "Delta" - distance from Earth in AU

It was a false alarm.

See editorial notice from the MPC They blame the Satellite Situation Center on failing to provide timely orbital elements. ESA, to be fair, does provide a position update, including a where is it now web page

See also Planetary Society Blog

The apparent new Near Earth Asteroid was actually the Rosetta spacecraft - which is indeed headed straight for the Earth, to do a swing-by and orbital boost enroute to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where it is to drop a lander and sample the cometary material, as well as observe the comets close approach to the Sun.
Rosetta is a billion euro mission - that is real money.

Somebody didn't check their orbital elements.
Ooops.

On the other hand, this was an object headed straight to Earth, and not in the appropriate data base, and they spotted it, alerted, and self-corrected.
So it works.

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Though funny, this story also reveals a sad fact: the Minor Planet Center is, to put it nicely, gravely underfunded and the people there are overworked. Given that the amount of data will grow exponentially, the situation doesn't seem bright. Anyone with a few extra bucks? Or better yet, euros? ;)

On the other hand, it feels incredible that such a tiny object was detected well in advance. It is true that Rosetta is much more bright than an average near-Earth asteroid, but even a true meteoroid of that magnitude probably wouldn't have caused any damage even if it had hit. Asteroid search programs are really effective nowadays!

By Dunkleosteus (not verified) on 12 Nov 2007 #permalink

Well, at least they'll spot the talking squid in space when they show up...this does sound like the beginning of a very good sci-fi story.

And I hadn't realised quite how cool the Rosetta mission is! All those manoeuvres, the two-year hibernation period and re-activation, landing on a comet and sticking a harpoon in the fucker...WOW.

I think I've got the wallpaper for the linux half of my laptop (the windows half is the USS Enterprise).

yeah, the MPC could use some money, if only they had a wealthy parent institute which could support them...

I am actually a paid subscriber, although my level of utilization is low - one of these situations where I don't need it 99.9% of the time, but when I need it I'll really want it (and would be able to get it for free... realistically).

The MPC ought to be able to make a very good case for long term NASA support, since NASA has a planetary protection program and an associated congressional mandate.
Don't understand the funding situation, the people involved may be having a culture clash or something

Right, I agree - the way to view this is that, there was an 'asteroid' headed for our general vicinity and the MPC detected it, so it works.