Telescope spots 10,000th near-Earth object detected to date

June 24, 2013 at 8:32 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., June 24 (UPI) -- U.S. astronomers have announced a cosmic milestone, the discovery of the 10,000th near-Earth object, an asteroid dubbed 2013 MZ5.

Bringing the total of asteroids and comets that can pass near Earth to 10,000, the asteroid was detected June 18 by the Pan-STARRS-1 telescope, located on the 10,000-foot summit of the Haleakala crater on the Hawaiian island of Maui, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported Monday.

Near-Earth objects, or NEOs, are asteroids and comets that can approach Earth's orbital distance to within about 28 million miles.

"Finding 10,000 near-Earth objects is a significant milestone," said Lindley Johnson, program executive for NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program at NASA headquarters in Washington.

"But there are at least 10 times that many more to be found before we can be assured we will have found any and all that could impact and do significant harm to the citizens of Earth."

NEOs range in size from as small as a few feet to as large as 25 miles for the largest near-Earth asteroid, known as 1036 Ganymed.

The newly discovered 2013 MZ5 is about 1,000 feet in diameter, with an orbit that will not approach close enough to Earth to be considered potentially hazardous, JPL said.

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