Rubin Planetarium Video - Near Earth Objects

A near-Earth object (NEO) is any small Solar System body (asteroid or comet) whose orbit around the Sun brings it close to Earth. An object is classified as an NEO if its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) is less than 1.3 astronomical units. Any NEO that crosses Earthʼs orbit and is larger than 140 meters across is considered a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA). If a PHA were to impact the Earth the consequences for life could be catastrophic.

Currently about 19,000 NEOs have been discovered. During its ten-year survey, it is estimated that LSST will discover about 100,000 more. By tracking the motions of NEOs, LSST will calculate the sizes and shapes of their orbits. Many measurements of an asteroidʼs position over time are required to precisely measure an objectʼs orbit, and knowing its orbit will allow scientists to determine if it is likely to impact Earth. LSST will measure an NEOʼs position, on average, 60 times during its ten-year survey. LSST will also measure the brightness of each NEO so that its size can be calculated (larger asteroids reflect more sunlight and therefore appear brighter.)

In 2005, the United State Congress requested that NASA develop a strategy to discover at least 90% of all NEOs with a diameter larger than 140m. Depending on the length and cadence of the survey, it is estimated that LSST will discover 60% to 90% of these objects, meaning that LSST may be able to achieve the congressionally mandated goal.

Scientists, engineers, and investors are also interested in discovering NEOs that may be suitable for mining. Asteroid mining offers the potential to extract metals and other raw materials that are in high demand on Earth. It is estimated that the mineral content in some asteroids have a value of more than a trillion U.S. dollars.


This sequence presents a plausible NEO encounter rendered at the correct relative scales for the Earth-Moon system. It is similar to actual NEO passes that have been recorded in recent years. It does not artificially exaggerate proximity to the Earth and Moon. The perspective of the animation is a view of the NEO as it moves past the Earth and Moon.


The sequence starts with the NEO towards the back of the dome, slowly tumbling past us towards the front.


The NEO makes is closest pass to us, while the Earth and Moon should become apparent ahead of it.


The Moon makes its closest approach, passing to the right.


The Earth makes its closest approach, passing to the le. We continue tracking the NEO as it passes safely through for 20 seconds.

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Contact: Amanda Bauer, Head of LSST Education and Public Outreach


Caltech-IPAC/LSST Project/NSF/AURA

Special Recognition

Data to Dome initiative

About the Video

Release date:April 10, 2023, 10:59 a.m.
Duration:59 s
Frame rate:30 fps

About the Object


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