Astronomers were unable to locate the object. Image Credit: NASA
A sizable asteroid measuring 270m across that was due to pass by the Earth seems to have disappeared.
The space rock dubbed 2000 EM26 was set to pass by us within a distance of 3.4 million kilometers, but when astronomers directed their telescopes to get a good look at it the asteroid seemed to have mysteriously vanished and was nowhere to be seen.
The object has since been nicknamed 'Moby Dick' after the infamous white whale in the story by author Herman Melville. Astronomers are not unduly concerned as the asteroid is not believed to pose a threat to the Earth however its disappearance has helped emphasize how limited out current asteroid tracking capabilities actually are.
The most likely explanation at present is that the asteroid's trajectory is different to that predicted by astronomers and everyone has simply been looking for it in the wrong place.
"It's a major chore figuring out how to reacquire asteroids," said Michael Paolucci, CEO of the robotic telescope service Slooh. "It's almost like discovering them all over again."
Source: New Scientist | Comments (43)