Giant Asteroid Is Headed Our Way, But NASA Says No Worries
A ginormous asteroid is headed our way, but no need to worry. NASA says asteroid 2004 BL86–estimated to be about one-third of a mile in diameter–will zoom harmlessly by Earth later this month.
That’s good news, of course. And get this: The asteroid’s size and proximity–about 745,000 miles from Earth at the nearest point in its flyby, or about three times the distance from the Earth to the Moon–mean it should be visible with nothing more than a good pair of binoculars.
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“Monday, January 26 will be the closest asteroid 2004 BL86 will get to Earth for at least the next 200 years,” Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Lab, said in a written statement. “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.”
Skywatchers in the Americas, Europe, and Africa should have the best view of the asteroid on the night of Jan. 26, according to EarthSky. Weather permitting, the asteroid should be visible moving slowly across the sky in the vicinity of the constellation Cancer.
Of course, it will only look slow. The asteroid is actually streaking at about 35,000 miles an hour.
Yeomans said he might grab his own binoculars and have a look himself. If you’d rather stay indoors, you can catch the action online at The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0. The show starts at 2:30 p.m. EST.
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