NASA

A Huge Asteroid Is Set to Hurtle Past Earth This Wednesday

Don't forget to wave (and watch live here).

FIONA MACDONALD
18 APR 2017
 

An asteroid so big it's been nicknamed after Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will streak past Earth this Wednesday, April 19.

That might sound alarming, but don't panic, the asteroid will pass us at a close but safe distance - which means telescopes around the planet will be keeping a close eye on it, and you'll have the chance to watch it whizz by from the comfort of your own home.

 

"Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid this size," a NASA press release explains.

The asteroid officially known as 2014 JO25 has been nicknamed "The Rock" because of its hefty size.

ASTEROID-THE-ROCKSlooh

First discovered in 2014, researchers estimate that it's around 650 metres (2,000 feet) in length.

Although it's previously been labelled "potentially hazardous", it should safely pass us at a distance of 1.8 million kilometres (1.1 million miles) - less than five times the distance to the Moon.

That's nothing to worry about - small asteroids skim past at similar distances several times a week.

But this is the first time since 2004 that an asteroid so sizable will come this close.

 

The last time 2014 JO25 was in our immediate neighbourhood was 400 years ago, and it's not expected to pass Earth again until sometime after 2600.

The good news for people wanting to get a glimpse of it as it zooms past is that it should be visible with a small optical telescope, because its surface is estimated to be twice as reflective as the Moon.

"Astronomers plan to observe it with telescopes around the world to learn as much about it as possible," says NASA.

If you're not a keen astronomer, don't worry, you can watch the whole thing live via the Virtual Telescope Project right here, starting at 7.30pm UTC (3.30pm ET) on 19 April, or 5.30am AEST on 20 April.

Slooh members can also watch live via the online observatory, at 11pm UTC (7pm ET) on 19 April, or 9am AEST on 20 April.

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