You can tune in live Thursday and Friday (May 26 and 27) to watch an asteroid barrel pass our planet 10 times the distance from our moon.
The space rock is known as asteroid 7335 (1989 JA) and is four times the size of the Empire State Building. Although this is the largest asteroid flyby of 2022 so far, the rock will remain a perfectly safe distance from our planet. The Virtual Telescope Project will broadcast a webcast of the flyby beginning at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) on May 26 and again at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) on May 27; you can watch the flyover in the window above or directly via the project website (opens in a new tab).
The asteroid should be bright enough to be seen in a medium-sized amateur telescope, especially from the southern hemisphere, noted Virtual Telescope Project founder Gianluca Masi. The asteroid is around 1.1. miles (1.8 kilometers) in diameter and its closest approach is 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) from Earth.
Related: The greatest asteroid missions of all time!
Asteroid 7335 (1989 JA) is technically classified as “Potentially Hazardous”, but this is more of a designation based on its relative size (greater than 492ft or 150m) and the distance at which the object s approach to Earth, among other factors.
NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office found the object posed no threat. You can follow other important flyovers to come (opens in a new tab) and the agency’s Small-Body database (opens in a new tab) to learn more about asteroids.
The agency maintains a curated list of asteroids (opens in a new tab) with a remote and statistically unlikely chance of impact, but none of these are of immediate concern. The agency also keeps this database up to date. For example, the asteroid Apophis was delisted in 2021 after new observations show it poses no threat in the next century.
Agencies around the world are also conducting missions to learn more about the composition and history of asteroids.
Examples include the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission to redirect a moonlet (asteroid moon) and OSIRIS-REX (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer), which will bring a sample of the asteroid Bennu to Earth in 2023.
These missions are done to assess the composition of asteroids just in case, and space agencies are also getting better at tracking asteroids. That’s why it might seem like there are so many space rocks passing by us these days.
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