This Wednesday at 1247 GMT, an object named 2010 AL30 will pass close to the Earth. At a fly-by distance of 76,000 miles (122,000km), the object will be approximately one third closer to us than our own Moon, and those able to view it will see a faint light in the sky similar to a 14th-magnitude star.
Although its exact nature is not yet know to scientist, NASA believe it is likely a small asteroid measuring between 10 to 15 meters wide, and thus of no immediate risk here on Earth. As a NASA scientist explains, stony asteroids under 25 meters tend to “burn up in our atmosphere, causing little or no ground damage.”
Earlier speculation suggested it may have been a man-made object, with Italian scientists Ernesto Guido and Giovanni Sostero from the Remanzacco Observatory proposing it may have been a spent rocket booster. However, that theory has since been dismissed, with a NASA spokesman explaining:
“Because its orbital period is nearly identical to the Earth’s one year period, some have suggested it may be a man made rocket stage in orbit about the Sun,” he said.
“However, this object’s orbit reaches the orbit of Venus at its closest point to the sun and nearly out to the orbit of Mars at its furthest point, crossing the Earth’s orbit at a very steep angle. This makes it very unlikely that 2010 AL30 is a rocket stage.”
“Furthermore, trajectory extrapolations show that this object cannot be associated with any recent launch and it has not made any close approaches to the Earth since well before the Space Age began.”