September 12, 2012

Huge Asteroid Skimming Past Earth On Thursday Night

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

In relative terms, the Earth is about to escape another asteroid impact on Thursday by the hair on its chin.

Although it's not like the 14-story sized asteroid is going to be nearing so close to Earth that you will be getting a prime view of in it your backyard, it will be about 7.5 times the Moon's distance from our planet.

The asteroid, which is between 625 and 1,400 feet across, is close enough to Earth to be classified a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA).

The Slooh Space Camera will be keeping an eye on the asteroid's close approach, giving the public an opportunity to watch as the space rock swoops past Earth live on the Internet.

Viewers can either tune in to Thursday's Slooh asteroid program on their computer, or their favorite iOS or Android device.

The asteroid is considered to be potentially hazardous because it could collide with Earth in the distant future.

Slooh has had its online robotic telescopes in the Canary Islands fixated on the asteroid ever since the potential discovery was published.

The organization will be using at least three of its online robotic telescopes to provide live image feeds as the asteroid passes by Earth throughout the night of September 13.

The asteroid is considered to be a challenging target to track for backyard telescopes, so in order to get a view of it, one must use large telescopes that are equipped with ultra-sensitive CCD cameras.

“Near-Earth objects have been whizzing past us lately, undetected until they have been practically on top of us," Astronomy Magazine columnist Bob Berman said in a statement announcing that Slooh would be providing live coverage. "This illustrates the need for continued and improved monitoring for our own future safety."

He said it is not a question of if, but when an object will hit us, and how large and fast it may be going.

"Remember, the last to strike us blew up in our atmosphere a mere century ago, on June 30, 1908, over Siberia, and did the kind of damage that could have killed 40 million people if it occurred in today´s world in a densely populated area," Berman said in the statement. "So to observe them -- as we will do live on Thursday evening -- provides instruction and perhaps motivation to keep up our guard, as well as a sense of relief as it speeds safely past at a mere one fifteenth the distance to the nearest planets.”