16 November 2016 | NEO 164121

Credit: John Dolan

On the morning of the 2nd of November while most of Europe was asleep, a Near Earth Object (NEO) was silently drifting through space at a distance of 5 million Km from Earth. NEO 164121, with a diameter of 1.7Km, passed within 0.1 of a degree from Polaris.

Each month dozens of NEOs come within 5 million Km of Earth, and while this is a safe distance, monitoring these objects orbits is important to ensure that they will not collide with Earth. These NEOs are defined as any small Solar system body, and are also known as NEAs, Near Earth Asteroids, but they may also be comets. They can have orbits that are not in the same plane of the Planets, and so can appear at high altitudes in the sky.

The Catalina and Pan-STARRS projects have been discovering many NEOs in the last few years. The number of known NEOs discovered has increased 50% since 2013 due to these surveys.

In this video, Irish Astronomer John Dolan captured 42 un-binned 12s exposures in Luminance with his 4inch refractor of 550mm focal length, and ccd camera from the suburbs of Dublin. John then created a movie of the 42 images to show the movement of the NEO as it passed by Polaris. The video shows the movement against the stars over 14 minutes.

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