Published: Mon, April 10, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

Big asteroid to fly 'very close' to Earth in mid-April

Big asteroid to fly 'very close' to Earth in mid-April

According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, asteroid 2014 JO25 will pass by our planet almost 1.1 million miles away, or about 4.6 times the distance between Earth and the moon, on April 19. They argue that we have no reason to worry because its trajectory indicates that the chances to hit us are close to zero.

What size are we talking about?

A large asteroid with an estimated size of 2000 feet is expected to fly past Earth on April 19, as reported by USA space agency NASA. That's about 670 yards (613 meters), or about the length of six NFL football fields.

One thing that has managed to get numerous scientists interested in the space rock is the fact that while it would not be colliding with the planet, it would still be passing relatively close to Earth.

In addition, the encounter on April 19 is also "the closest this asteroid has come to Earth for at least the last 400 years and will be its closest approach for at least the next 500 years", NASA added. That's about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. At more than 100 million miles of distance, researchers say the comet will be visible at dawn in the U.S.

Small asteroids pass within this distance of Earth several times each week, but this upcoming close approach is the closest by any known asteroid of this size in 13 years. But those four others will be considerably smaller and slower than 2014 JO25, which will be moving at a velocity of about 20 miles per second.

2014 JO25 is twice as reflective as the Moon, and its considerable size makes it a flawless target for stargazers.

According to EarthSky, it'll be closest to Earth on the morning of April 19, but a skywatcher's best bet is to wait until nightfall to look for the asteroid, which will appear as a slow-moving star in the northern sky. Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, an extremely powerful radio telescope center, will study the asteroid for five days.

Astronomers discovered 2014 J025 three years ago (you guessed it in 2014). NASA said telescopes around the world will be trained on it during the flyby to try to learn more about it.

While you're at it, keep an eye out for panSTARRS, a comet puttering its way across the southern sky.

A collision with another object or an unexpected course adjustment could put 2014 JO25 within a dangerously close distance to our planet, or even set it in motion to impact us. That's not visible to the naked eye, but it's possible to catch sight of the asteroid with a small telescope.

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