We’ve only known about asteroid 2018 DV1 for less than a week but the bus-sized space rock is not wasting time and will whiz past us tomorrow (March 2), coming closer to our planet than the moon, International Business Times reports.
The Virtual Telescope Project is calling it “a very close, but safe, encounter,” and will be streaming it live, during a free webcast that you can watch here. The webcast, held in Ceccano, Italy, is scheduled to start at 12:30 a.m. EST (0530 GMT) tomorrow, and will be led by astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, notes Space.com.
Although asteroid 2018 DV1 is quite modest in size, astronomers are no less excited about tomorrow’s flyby, which promises to be quite spectacular. The near-Earth asteroid will come as close as 65,000 miles (around 105.000 km) from the surface of our planet, cruising at a speed of 11,600 mph, Daily Mail informs.
That’s less than one-third of the distance between the Earth and the moon, the Virtual Telescope Project points out. To capture it skim past us at such close range, the facility has partnered up with the Tenagra Observatories in Arizona, and will be using their 16-inch (41 centimeters) robotic telescope to document the flyby.
According to their website, asteroid 2018 DV1 “will be visible only with powerful enough telescopes,” due to its relatively small size. The asteroid is roughly 23 feet (7 meters) wide, revealed NASA’s Asteroid Watch program, which gauged the object’s size via the program’s asteroid-tracking widget.
The bus-sized asteroid was first spotted a mere four days ago, on February 26, by the Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona. Its discovery came one day after our close encounter with another asteroid, 2018 DU, which also approached our planet at under one lunar distance. On February 25, asteroid 2018 DU came at about 196,000 miles (315,000 km) from Earth.
But these up-close-and-personal flybys are nothing to be worried about, as astronomers say they are quite common. In fact, since the beginning of 2018, 17 other known asteroids have come within one lunar distance from our planet, states Earth Sky. This makes asteroid 2018 DV1 the 18th to make it so close to Earth this year, and the 6th closest so far.
A famous example in this category was asteroid 2018 CB, which blazed past us on February 9 at a distance of about 39,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) — which is less than one-fifth of the lunar distance, Asteroid Watch reported last month.
Aside from tomorrow’s flyby, another close encounter to keep our eyes peeled for is next week’s flyby of asteroid 2017 VR12. This asteroid is considerably larger — its estimated diameter ranges between 492 and 1,542 feet (150 to 470 meters) — and will be zooming past us on March 7.
Asteroid 2017 VR12 is expected to come within 870,000 miles (1.4 million km) from Earth, or 3.7 lunar distances. Due to its size and flyby distance, NASA has classified it as “potentially hazardous.” Yet, there’s no cause for alarm, as all near-Earth asteroids wider than 492 feet and which get within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million km) from our planet fall into that category.
The Virtual Telescope Project is keeping tabs on both asteroids and will be covering the March 7 flyby as well, by hosting two live events that are scheduled to take place before and after the rendezvous with asteroid 2017 VR12.