How to watch an asteroid fly past the Earth today


A view of an asteroid, seen on January 17, 2022, when the object was 1.68 million miles (2.7 million km) from Earth.
Gif: Virtual Telescope Project 2.0 / Gizmodo

An asteroid the length of nine football fields promotes our planet today. Here’s what you need to know about this object near Earth and why there’s no reason to worry.

The asteroid, designated 1994 PC1, will come closest to Earth at 16:51 EST (13:51 PST), and then come to 1.23 million miles (1.98 million kilometers) from our planet, according to at NASA. This is a safe distance, as it is just over five times the average distance Earth to the Moon.

The Rome-based Virtual Telescope 2.0 project is hosting a close-access livestream, which is expected to begin shortly after 14:00 EST (11:00 PST). You can follow the action on the feed below.

Gianluca Masi, the project’s founder, said opportunities to see bright and relatively close asteroids like the 1994 PC1 don’t happen very often. The object will not be visible to the naked eye, but amateur astronomers using small telescopes between 100 mm and 150 mm in diameter should be able to spot it passing through the constellations Cetus, Pisces, Andromeda and Cassiopeia. Massi told me in e-mail.

For this encounter, Massi will use the group’s main robotic unit located in Ceccano, Italy, located 56 miles (90 km) south of Rome. The automated device will track the apparent movement of PC1 from 1994 over the background of the stars, which should result in some “very beautiful images,” Masi said. The sky above the place is expected to be clear, so “we keep our fingers crossed that we have a great view and share the experience with the world,” he added. The asteroid is currently moving at a speed of 31.5 miles per second (19.56 km / s).

The 60-second exposure shows the asteroid on January 17th.  The lines are the stars in the background.

The 60-second exposure shows the asteroid on January 17th. The lines are the stars in the background.
Picture: Virtual Telescope Project 2.0

1994. PC1 is considered a potentially dangerous asteroid and near Earth oobject (NEO), but a 0.6-mile-wide (1-kilometer-wide) space rock poses no tangible threat to Earth. A look at NASA’s NEO Earth Close Approaches table shows that 1994 PC1 will not be closer than this for at least the next 200 years. Interestingly, however, the asteroid came a little closer in 1933, when it traveled 699,000 miles (1.12 million kilometers).

NASA currently monitors 28,000 NEOs, with an additional 3,000 objects added to the list each year. Space Agency recently upgraded its impact tracking system, called Sentry-II, which is capable of tracking all known NEOs and calculating the odds of hitting just a few chances in 10 million.

More: NASA’s upgraded impact monitoring system could prevent an asteroid apocalypse.


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