An asteroid AND a rare full moon on Christmas? Thanks Santa!!!

First, the asteroid!

The Problem (and by problem, I mean totally awesome astronomical event)

  • On December 24th, a large (ish) asteroid, SD220, will pass by the Earth.
  • It will be about 11 million kilometers away at its closest, which is farther from Earth than the Moon (phew).
  • As it turns out, 11 million miles is over 120 million football fields long. So like I said, really far away, as demonstrated by that totally useless comparison.
  • BUT, it’s about 0.7 kilometers wide and 2 kilometers long, which is about eight football fields wide and 22 football fields long. Much better!
Not even if you squint. Really really hard. Nope.
Not even if you squint. Really really hard. Nope.

The Study

  • No real study here, but NASA astronomers have known about this asteroid since 2003 and have been watching it ever since. Hasn’t hit us yet! And there’s no danger of it hitting us this time, either. Now if you plan on being around in two centuries, you might have a reason to be worried…
  • Scientists know a lot about the asteroid, including that it is a silacaceous, or “stony” asteroid.
  • This is the weird part- most stony asteroids come from the inner asteroid belt which is beyond Mars.
  • So scientists would really like to figure out how it got so far away from home.

The Takeaway

  • A really cool, seemingly lost asteroid is coming close to the Earth on Christmas Eve.
  • Unless you asked Santa for a really nice telescope last year, you won’t be able to see it with your bare eyeballs.
  • NASA astronomers are EXTREMELY confident that it will not hit the Earth. I am EXTREMELY confident in NASA astronomers. So you should probably go ahead and get on with that last minute Christmas shopping. Even Amazon Prime can’t save you now.
Too soon or nah?
Too soon or nah?

Full Moon on Christmas

It'll pretty much look just like this. Promise.
It’ll pretty much look just like this. Promise.

The Problem

  • If you were born after 1977, you’ve never seen a full moon on Christmas.
  • The last full moon of the year will happen on December 25th.
  • This full moon is called the Full Cold Moon, since it’s the first full moon of the winter here in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Study

  • Again, no official study of the full moon here, but YOU can study this rare event if you’re up early on Christmas morning (around 6 a.m., which if you have kids, you will be).
  • NASA does have a spacecraft orbiting the Moon. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission has been investigating the lunar surface since 2009 and learning all sorts of scientific information, like how a human would be affected by radiation that hits the surface of the Moon.

The Takeaway

The moon: Not responsible for the behavior of your family for the last 4.53 billion years.
The moon: Not responsible for the behavior of your family, friends, students, or patients for the last 4.53 billion years.
  • The full moon will not make your relatives even crazier than normal. If this is not reassuring to you, you might want to stock up on wine and beer asap.
  • Get up early, because even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, this full moon won’t come around again ’til 2034 and it’s gonna be AWESOME!

Feeling nervous about giant asteroids crashing into the Earth? Feed your fears here:

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/orbits/

Look! I got you more knowledge for Christmas! All you have to do is click the links!

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-22/earth-to-get-christmas-asteroid-full-moon/7049324

http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2015/12/21/asteroid_2003_sd220_passes_earth_on_christmas_eve.html

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/rare-full-moon-on-christmas-day

 

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Author: Emily

I started Rise and Sci because I love science, I love teaching people new things and I want to help build a greater public understanding of all things science. My goal is to take hard to understand concepts and make them accessible to everyone- all in a fun an interesting format!

2 thoughts on “An asteroid AND a rare full moon on Christmas? Thanks Santa!!!”

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