On Monday asteroid ‘2004 BL86‘ will pass the earth, missing it by just 745,000 miles (three times as far as the moon is from Earth).
Asteroids pass by the earth all the time, but none quite as big as this one. It’s a half-kilometer in size and will be the closest known asteroid to pass by the Earth until 2027. It is so big, in fact, that people will be able to see it from their backyards using binoculars or telescopes.
“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, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a NASA press release. (On a side note for space rock fans, Yeomans retired January 9 after 16 years of tracking asteroids. Paul Chodas, has been designated as the new manager.)
This asteroid is also interesting because you might be able to see it with strong binoculars or backyard telescopes. That’s a rare opportunity for most of us.
“I may grab my favorite binoculars and give it a shot myself,” said Yeomans. “Asteroids are something special. Not only did asteroids provide Earth with the building blocks of life and much of its water, but in the future, they will become valuable resources for mineral ores and other vital natural resources. They will also become the fueling stops for humanity as we continue to explore our solar system. There is something about asteroids that makes me want to look up.”
If you don’t have a telescope or pair of binoculars you can watch the event live online on Monday by going to: http://www.virtualtelescope.eu/webtv/
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