A large near-Earth asteroid will pass Earth today! Not to worry though, NASA said there is no possibility this asteroid known as 2014 JO25 will collide with Earth.
The 2,000-feet- (650-meter) sized asteroid will fly past Earth at safe distance of 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometres). This is about 4.6 times the distance between Earth and the moon. The space agency said this will be a ‘very close approach for an asteroid of this size.’
This approach is the closest this asteroid has passed by Earth for at least 400 years. Its next closest approach will occur in at least the next 500 years, NASA said.
Astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona discovered the near-Earth asteroid under a NASA project on May 2014. The space agency undertook the project, known as NEO Observations Program, in collaboration with the University of Arizona. NEO refers to a near-Earth object.
Based on data from the NEOWISE mission, the asteroid measured about 2,000 feet or 650 meters in size. NASA said the near-Earth asteroid’s surface is about twice as reflective as that of the moon.
Enthusiasts Can View Near-Earth Asteroid Using Small Optical Telescopes
The asteroid will fly past Earth from the direction of the sun. It can be seen in the night sky after April 19. Astronomers calculate that it will brighten to about magnitude 11.
If you’d like to watch the flyby live, check out the Slooh online observatory’s website. It starts at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) April 19.
Enthusiasts can view this asteroid using small optical telescopes for one or two nights. After which, the near-Earth asteroid will fade as its distance from Earth increases.
Astronomers will observe the asteroid with telescopes to try to learn as much as they can about it. While astronomers have determined its trajectory, they have no information about its physical properties.
Meanwhile, NASA plans radar observations at its Goldstone Solar System Radar in California. The National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico also plans similar observations. “The resulting radar images could reveal surface details as small as a few meters,” the agency said.
According to NASA, smaller near-Earth asteroids pass within the same distance as 2014 JO25 several times each week. However, this is ‘the closest by any known asteroid of this size’ since 2004, the space agency said.
Asteroid Toutatis, a 3-1 mile (5-kilometre) asteroid, approached within about four lunar distances. The distance between Earth and the moon is estimated at about 236,000 miles or 380,000 kilometres.
The next time an asteroid with similar size will pass close to earth will happen in 2027. The half-mile-wide (800-meter wide) asteroid 1999 AN10 will pass Earth at one lunar distance.
The comet PanSTARRS will also make its closest approach to Earth on April 19. However, it will pass at a safe distance of 109 million miles or 175 million kilometres from Earth. Discovered in 2015, the comet will be visible in the dawn sky with binoculars or a small telescope.