A big asteroid will fly by Earth on Monday, but NASA says don’t worry — we’ll be safe.
There will be a rare chance to see an asteroid pass so close to the Earth on Monday night – definitely worth a look. It will be best seen in the Americas, Europe, and Africa.
The next time such an asteroid comes this close again will be in 2027.
The asteroid is called 2004 BL86 – discovered on January 30, 2004, by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR), responsible for the majority of asteroid discoveries from 1998 until 2005, when it was overtaken by the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS). The asteroid orbits the Sun every 1.84 years.
According to NASA scientists, the asteroid it’ll come about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth, or about three times as far away as the moon at 11:19 a.m. ET
You’re wondering, doesn’t this happen all the time? Yes and no. There are lots of asteroids that pose a threat to Earth — about 550 as of January 22. None are predicted to hit anytime soon.
But asteroid 2004 BL86 (yes, we also wish it had a catchier name) is big — estimated to be 0.5 km [about a third of a mile] in diameter, it is classified by scientists as potentially dangerous.
A space object is considered “potentially dangerous” if it crosses the Earth’s orbit at a distance of less than 0.05 AU (approximately 19.5 distances from the Earth to the Moon), and if its diameter exceeds 100-150 meters. Objects of this size are large enough to cause unprecedented destruction, or generate a tsunami in case they fall into the ocean.
However, according to astronomers, there is no threat of the object colliding with our planet this time.
“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,” Don Yeomans from NASA’s Near Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.
Experts at NASA’s Near Earth Object Program believe the asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye. The asteroid is expected to be visible through small telescopes and strong binoculars. That’s a rare opportunity for most of us.
If you don’t have binoculars or a scope, you can watch from the comfort of your computer on The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0.