Date
18 December 2017
Stargazers will have a field day on Jan. 26, when the asteroid 2004 BL86 will reach its closest distance to our planet. Photo: Internet
Stargazers will have a field day on Jan. 26, when the asteroid 2004 BL86 will reach its closest distance to our planet. Photo: Internet

A heavenly treat for astronomy buffs

On Jan. 26, an asteroid about a third of a mile in diameter will zoom past our planet. 

Don’t worry, it won’t present any doomsday risk to life on Earth, but it will be the closest that it can get to our planet in the next 200 years.

On that date, a Monday, the asteroid 2004 BL86 will reach a point about 745,000 miles from our planet, or three times the distance to the moon, according to NASA.

“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,” says Dr. Don Yeomans, retiring head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The asteroid is likely to be bright enough to be spotted by astronomy buffs, particularly those in the Americas, Europe, and Africa, with the use of a pair of binoculars — provided, of course, that the sky is clear.

The heavenly rock could be seen moving slowly across the sky in the vicinity of the constellation Cancer, the Huffington Post reports, although in reality it is traveling at 35,000 miles an hour.

It was discovered on Jan. 30, 2004 by astronomers at the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research telescope in White Sands, New Mexico, according to the Guardian newspaper.

A graphic of the asteroid flyby from NASA/JPL-Caltech: 

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/asteroid/20150113/Asteroid2004BL86.gif

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CG

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