Amateur stargazers and professional astronomers are getting ready for a rare celestial event, the flyby past Earth of giant asteroid. A huge rock traveling through space will pass by our planet on Monday night within 745,000 miles. This is the nearest an asteroid of this size will travel past Earth until 2027. The space rock, called 2004 Bl86, will be closest to Earth at around 11:19 am ET, as per NASA. It will be visible over European and North American skies.
Even if there are quite a few space rocks in our planetary system that represent a risk to our planet– presently around 550 – NASA reported that there is no danger of an impact with Monday’s space rock. The huge asteroid will be around three times further than the distance between the Earth and Moon.
Don Yeomans, the recently retired chief of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory based in Pasadena, California noted:
“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.”
This rare event implies that amateur stargazer will get the chance to view the space rock with regular telescopes, or even high-quality binoculars. Nonetheless, any telescope to be used for spotting the asteroid must have a minimum four-inch lens. For those how don’t have a telescope or binoculars The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0 will stream the entire event live on the web. The space rock will resemble a faint, lazy moving star, and will pass by Jupiter and Cancer Constellation.
But Santa Clause Clarity Valley space scientist Steve Petzold noted that a celestial body like this is exceptionally hard to spot in the sky. According to Petzold the asteroid will appear as a pinpoint of light and even astronomy amateurs need to know quite precisely where it is in the sky and have the ability to recognize it.
It will be elusive, undoubtedly. This is a solitary space rock and space rocks don’t move as fast as meteors. Additionally, meteors have a tendency to show up in clusters called meteor showers which makes it less difficult to spot them in the night sky.
The next similar event with a huge space rock passing by our planet will be that of Asteroid 1999 AN10 in 2027. NASA will use radar engineering on Monday night to get new pictures and data regarding 2004 Bl86, and about space rocks in general. This rock is around a third of a mile large. Despite NASA’s reassurances, Virtual Telescope’s WebTV records the space rock as “Potentially Hazardous.”
Image Source: Perfect Science