“Monday, Jan. 26 will be the closest an asteroid will get to Earth for at least the next 200 years,” according to Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
- The space rock is called 2004 BL86.
- It’ll pass safely by at about 3 times the distance from Earth to the moon.
- Astronomers estimate it’s about 1/3 mile across.
- The closest the asteroid will get is approximately 745,000 miles from our planet.
- It’ll be traveling quickly at 2.7 degrees per hour (nearly 5.5 times the diameter of the moon).
- It’s from a group of 551 potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids that could possibly hit Earth.
- You’ll be able to see it with a small telescope or even large binoculars.
“And while it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it’s a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more,” Yeomans added in a statement.
Scientists at NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna in California, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will attempt to acquire data, and radar-generated images during the days around its closest approach to Earth.
“When we get our radar data back the day after the flyby, we will have the first detailed images,” said JPL radar astronomer Lance Benner.
At present, we know almost nothing about the asteroid, so there are bound to be surprises.
And if you don’t have the right viewing equipment, you can still witness the flyby. Just work out what time it’ll pass in your time zone, and check out a live feed.