25Jan2015

Large Asteroid Will Pass Earth On Australia Day 2015

Ast

An asteroid half a kilometre in diameter and will fly past earth this Australia Day

Astronomers will be pointing their telescopes to the sky this Australia Day trying to get a glimpse of a giant asteroid heading our way. But there will be no need to enlist the help of Bruce Willis or his demolition buddies.

Thankfully the big space rock will safely pass Earth. The asteroid, dubbed 2004 BL86, is estimated to be around half a kilometre in diameter and will fly past the planet at about three times the distance of Earth to the moon. Retired manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office Don Yeomans said the fly-by of 2004 BL86 will be the closest of any known space rock this large until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past Earth in 2027.

Asteroid 2004 BL86 was initially discovered on Jan. 30, 2004 by a telescope of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico 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’t worry. We won’t be relying on Bruce Willis to save the Earth like he did in Armeged

Don’t worry. We won’t be relying on Bruce Willis to save the Earth like he did in Armageddon. Source: News Corp Australia

The asteroid won’t be visible to the naked eye, but NASA says small telescopes and strong binoculars should be enough to bring it into view. Peak brightness is expected at magnitude 8.8 and will occur around 4am Greenwich Mean Time, at which point it will be visible over Europe, Africa and most of the Americas. At the time of its closest approach on January 26, the asteroid will be approximately 1.2 million kilometers from Earth.

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

Being in a less favourable position for reflecting sunlight, Australians and east Asians will be have to view the asteroid in the early hours of the morning AEDT. Due to being a several hours earlier than its closest approach, the asteroid will be around a magnitude fainter at this time.  One way NASA scientists plan to learn more about 2004 BL86 is to observe it with microwaves.

NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will attempt to acquire science data and radar-generated images of the asteroid during the days surrounding its closest approach to Earth.

Asteroids are something special. Not only did asteroids provide Earth with the building blocks of life and much of its water, but in the future, they will become valuable resources for mineral ores and other vital natural resources. They will also become the fuelling stops for humanity as we continue to explore our solar system. To secure a look at the asteroid, astronomers are being told to gaze in front of the Leo, Cancer and Hydra constellations. Source: News: Com.au

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