NASA officials of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Smithsonian Minor Planet Center confirm that Asteroid 2011 MD will male an extremely close pass of Planet Earth on Monday. The bus-sized object will set a record as the fifth closets approach, a mere 7,500 miles above the surface. The closest ever was Asteroid 2011 CQ1, which buzzed the Earth only 3,400 miles in space. No reason to worry as the close shave will be mostly over open sea between South Africa and the coast of Antarctica. The event will take place approximately at 9:30am EDT on Monday, June 27.

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The asteroid was first detected on Wednesday, June 22, by the LINEAR double-telescope near Socorro, New Mexico on the White Sands Missile Test Range. The Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research program is run by MIT and funded by NASA and the U.S. Air Force. Two identical telescopes are used, known as the Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance, or GEODSS. Using charged-coupled detectors, or CCDs, the electronic images are transmitted to a facility at the Hanscom Air Force Base near Lexington, Massachusetts. Since 1998, the telescopes have observed over 27 million asteroids and Near-Earth Objects, discovering almost a quarter-million of them itself, including 261 comets.

To think that not long ago, in the late 1980s, only some 200 Near-Earth Objects were known. Two major events changed all of that. New theories about a comet or asteroid causing the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Peace Shield or ′Star Wars′ plan by President Ronald Reagan to end the threat of nuclear annihilation. Advances in optics, imagining and tracking technologies paved the way for new generations of telescopes. The latest ones being developed are fully automated and will be able to image huge swaths of sky in a single observation, with sophisticated software doing most of the ′eye-work′ in locating unknown objects.

Thus, objects like Asteroid 2011 MD have been discovered, which will make an extremely close pass of Planet Earth this coming Monday. While coming within just 7,500 miles of Earth, it is still not the closest approach, a record still held by Asteroid 2011 CQ1 of just 3,400 miles in space back on February 22. NASA officials from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Smithsonian′s Minor Planet Center confirm that Asteroid 2011 MD will make it′s closest approach around 9:30am EDT over the southern seas between South Africa and the coast of Antarctica. The bus-sized object was discovered on Wednesday by the LINEAR telescope in New Mexico, a robotic system using two automated telescopes for locating Near-Earth Objects.

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