The asteroid is called 2004 BL86. It’ll come about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth, or about three times as far away as the moon at 11:19 a.m. ET, according to NASA.
You’re wondering, doesn’t this happen all the time? Yes and no. There are lots of asteroids that pose a threat to Earth — about 550 as of January 22. None are predicted to hit anytime soon.
But asteroid 2004 BL86 (yes, we also wish it had a catchier name) is big — about a third of a mile (a half-kilometer) in size. It will be the closest known asteroid this large to pass near Earth until 2027, that’s when an asteroid called 1999 AN10 flies by us.
“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,” Don Yeomans, the recently retired manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a NASA press release.
This asteroid is also interesting because you might be able to see it with strong binoculars or backyard telescopes. That’s a rare opportunity for most of us.
If you don’t have binoculars or a scope, you can watch from the comfort of your computer on The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0.
The asteroid was discovered on January 30, 2004, by a telescope of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico.