An asteroid is coming, an asteroid is coming! For those hoping to catch a glimpse of the mountain-sized asteroid 2004 BL86 as it passes near Earth, your chance is almost here. The asteroid will pass near Earth on Monday and can be viewed from a number of locations. What time is the main event going to take place?
According to NASA, at the time of its closest approach on January 26, the asteroid will be approximately 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth. That is roughly three times the distance of the Earth to the moon. Therefore, the passing asteroid is not expected to pose any sort of hazard to Earth. However, it will give sky gazers a show. Earth Sky notes that the asteroid will be at its closest point to Earth at approximately 11:20pm on the night of January 26.
For those hoping to view the passing asteroid as up-close as possible, the Marshall Ustream feed will open their stream to the public. The Marshall Ustream Feed will feature live streams as NASA’s Deep Space Network in California zooms into the surface and even looks for possible moons. You can also watch the stream live from the Virtual Telescope Project online hosted in Italy.
Hoping to see the asteroid pass by with a telescope or naked eye without watching a streaming service? According to WPXNews, the asteroid will be in the constellation Cancer.
“BL86 will be in Cancer all evening extended.”
It rises in the ENE by 8:00 p.m. and will be due east around midnight. At 1 a.m., it is virtually directly overhead. However, unless you are in an area free of artificial lighting, you will need a telescope.
Fox News reports that the asteroid will be the closest known asteroid this large to pass Earth until 2027. Therefore, scientists are jumping on the opportunity to obtain as much data as possible from this flyby. Don Yeomans, the recently retired manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told Fox that this asteroid gives us a very “unique” opportunity to observe.
“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.”
This isn’t the only unique opportunity that scientists will have this month. The Dawn Spacecraft is already on approach to the dwarf planet Ceres, which will be seen for the first time up-close.
Do you plan to watch asteroid 2004 BL86 as it passes through the night’s sky on Monday? Will you be watching via online streaming service or with your own telescope?