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There is a Giant Rock Hurtles Towards Earth Later This Month

There is a Giant Rock Hurtles Towards Earth Later This Month
Editors

An asteroid, called 2004 BL86, will sweep safely past Earth on January 26, 2015. The flyby is notable because 2004 BL86 will be the closest of any known space rock this large until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past Earth in 2027. This asteroid is estimated from its reflected brightness to be about 500 meters in diameter (about a third of a mile, or 0.5 km).


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NASA says, Don’t panic. 2004 BL86 will come within a tantalizingly 745,000 miles of striking us on Monday and wrecking pretty much everything. That’s the closest an asteroid of this size has come to us, that they’ve recorded. For comfort.

“The flyby of 2004 BL86 will be the closest by any known space rock this large until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past Earth in 2027,” NASA wrote today. So, we’re just learning of this now because … maybe we just missed it. Asteroid 2004 BL86 was discovered in 2004.



“Monday, January 26 will be the closest asteroid 2004 BL86 will get to Earth for at least the next 200 years,” said Don Yeomans, who is retiring as manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, after 16 years in the position.

“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.”

Asteroid “2004 BL86” was initially discovered Jan 30, 2004, by a telescope of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico.

The asteroid is expected to be observable to amateur astronomers with small telescopes and strong binoculars beginning in the evening of January 26 and into the morning of January 27.

Its peak brightness will be about magnitude 8.8, meaning it will not be bright enough to view with the unaided eye. The asteroid will be at its most visible over Europe, Africa, and North and South America. Australians and east Asians will have to look a few hours earlier, when the asteroid isn’t as bright. The asteroid will be moving about four degrees every hour through the course of the night. That’s fast, faster than the moon moves (about half a degree per hour). The asteroid will be whizzing past in front of the constellations Hydra, Cancer, and Leo.

“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.”

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Source: http://goo.gl/GAemLa.

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