Astronomers are preparing for a close encounter with a large asteroid
A large asteroid is expected to flyby our planet on April 19. The object will be at at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) away, or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. NASA describes the phenomenon as a close encounter but one that poses no threats. The asteroid is roughly 2,000 feet (650 meters) in size, and that its surface is about twice as reflective as that of the moon.
“Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size,” NASA says about the April 19 event.
The asteroid was discovered back in 2014 by a team of astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona and was named 2014 JO25. The discovery was made during a NASA programme aimed at identifying near-Earth objects.
According to NASA, the asteroid will approach the Earth coming form the direction of the sun and will be visible on our sky beginning with April 19. Astronomers are preparing for the close encounter as it offers a rare opportunity to study the asteroid. At NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in California and the National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico radar observations are planned and according to astronomers, the radar images could offer up details of the asteroid’s surface.
For amateur astronomers could observe the asteroid for a couple of nights by using a small telescope.
The encounter on April 19 is 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.
Small asteroids pass within this distance of Earth several times each week. But the April 19 encounter is a rare one given the size of the asteroid. Last time such a large asteroid passed the Earth was back in 2004 and the next close encounter will be on 2027 when 1999 AN10, an asteroid half-mile-wide, will pass at a distance of about 236,000 miles away from Earth.