Earth is about to have a close encounter with a house-sized asteroid on Sunday (Sept. 7), when a space rock discovered just days ago will zoom by our planet at a range closer than some satellites. Similar in size to the Chelyabinsk meteorite that exploded over Russia’s Ural Mountains region in February 2013, Nasa says we will have a ‘very close’ shave – but that there is no risk.
At the time of closest approach, asteroid 2014 RC will be one-tenth the distance from the centre of Earth to the moon, or about 25,000 miles (40,000km).
Astronomers in Arizona detected 2014 RC the night of Aug. 31. Stargazers will need telescopes to see Sunday’s flyby with their own eyes, but the Slooh virtual observatory will stream the encounter online, starting at 10 p.m. ET Saturday. If you miss it, don’t worry. It will be back in the neighborhood again one day.
The asteroid will pass below Earth and the geosynchronous ring of communications and weather satellites orbiting about 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above our planet’s surface. While this celestial object does not appear to pose any threat to Earth or satellites, its close approach creates a unique opportunity for researchers to observe and learn more about asteroids.
“While 2014 RC will not impact Earth, its orbit will bring it back to our planet’s neighborhood in the future,” NASA officials said in the same statement. “The asteroid’s future motion will be closely monitored, but no future threatening Earth encounters have been identified.”
Scientists have found more than 10,000 near-Earth objects in the solar system.