National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
News & Events
Close Call
Close Call
20 Jun 2002
(Source: Near Earth Object Information Centre)

Near Earth Object Information Centre
National Space Centre, Exploration Drive, Leicester
Press Release: Asteroid 2002MN
For immediate release

On Friday 14 June, an asteroid the size of a football pitch made one of the closest ever recorded approaches to Earth. Astronomers working on the LINEAR search programme, near Socorro, New Mexico first detected the giant rock on 17 June, a few days after its close approach.

The Near Earth Object, known to astronomers as '2002MN', was travelling at over 10 km/s (23,000 miles per hour) when it passed Earth at a distance of around 120,000 km (75,000 miles), bringing it well inside the Moon's orbit. The last time a known asteroid passed this close was back in December 1994.

Asteroids are typically too small and distant to measure their size directly from Earth, so scientists use the amount of light they reflect, along with a basic understanding of the materials they are made of, to estimate their size. With a diameter between 50-120 metres, 2002 MN is a lightweight among asteroids and incapable of causing damage on a global scale, such as the object associated with the extinction of the dinosaurs.

However, if it had hit the Earth, 2002MN may have caused local devastation similar to that which occurred in Tunguska, Siberia in 1908, when 2000 square kilometres of forest were flattened. Whilst the vast majority of NEOs discovered do not come this close, such near misses do highlight the importance of detecting these objects. This reminder comes in a week when the UK telescopes on La Palma are being tested to search for NEOs.

Brief Description of Object
Object Designation: 2002MN
Date of First Observation: 17/06/02
Number of Observations: 14
Search Team: LINEAR (Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research)
Date of Closest Approach: 14/06/02
Closest Approach Distance: 0.000797 AU or 119,229 km (0.3 Lunar Distances)
Asteroids Velocity Relative to Earth at Closest Approach: 10.58 km/s (23,667 miles per hour)
Estimated Diameter of Asteroid: 50-120 metres
Orbital Period: 894.9 days

For further information contact: Kevin Yates (Project Officer) Near Earth Object Information Centre. +44(0)116 2582130 or 07740 896141; email:

News Archive Search  Go!
Show  results per page
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writers: Courtney O'Connor and Bill Dunford
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 20 Jun 2002