Andrea Milani, professor of mathematics at Pisa University, passed away unexpectedly last Wednesday while cycling near Pisa. With his deep knowledge and understanding on the Solar System dynamics, Andrea was a pioneer in a discipline started by him and a few others at the end of the past century: asteroid impact monitoring.
For the third time in recent history of asteroid detection a NEO was detected a few hours before it entered the Earth atmosphere (the two previous cases were 2008 TC3 and 2014 AA). Asteroid 2018 LA was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey in the early morning (European time) of this Saturday, 2 June. In a matter of hours additional observations were made and it became very probable that it would collide with the Earth.
At approximately 09:30 UT on 14 April 2018 the Catalina Sky Survey, in Arizona, discovered a bright magnitude 15 object moving at a sky speed of 10" per minute, in the constellation Libra. Follow-up observations obtained over the next few hours, by Catalina's own facilities and by other observers in the US Southwest, quickly showed that this was an unknown asteroid, which was about to have a close fly-by with our planet less than a day later. The asteroid was subsequently designated 2018 GE3.
On 19 October the Pan-STARRS telescope, one of the NASA-funded surveys dedicated to discovering new NEOs, found an object that proved to be extremely unique: for the first time, an asteroid originated around another star had been spotted when transiting inside our Solar System. The object, first labelled P10Ee5V by the discovery team, was quickly followed up by a few observatories, including by our team using the ESA Optical Ground Station in Tenerife.
A bright fireball occurred over The Netherlands on 21 September 2017 at 19:00 UTC (21:00 CEST). In addition to many individual sightings, it was also recorded by an all-sky camera dedicated to recording exactly such events.
An international campaign has revealed that an asteroid will come within 44 000 km of our planet in October, providing a rare opportunity for intensive studies. Astronomers recently spotted asteroid 2012 TC4 under a collaboration between ESA and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to locate faint objects that might strike Earth. This is the first observation since 2012, when the asteroid was discovered by the Pan-STARRS observatory in Hawaii. It was found this time by ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile.
ExoMars, the ESA/Russia mission en route toward the Red Planet, has turned into a remarkable observing opportunity for asteroid hunters. The post launch outbound trajectory of the spacecraft mimics, in a reverse mode, the challenging detection of a small Earth impactor. The NEO Coordination Centre has therefore organized an international observational campaign with the aim of obtaining ground-based optical observations of the spacecraft.
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