'Really big and very shiny' asteroid to (safely) pass Earth

Larger than a skyscraper, the asteroid will fly by on April 19th

'Really big and very shiny' asteroid to (safely) pass Earth

[NASA]

On April 19th, a whopper asteroid will (safely) pass by the Earth, posing no danger to the continued survival of mankind. But even though it won’t strike the planet, astronomers around the world are marvelling at how close a piece of space rock its size will actually get.

Named 2014 JO25, the giant measures approximately 650m across, more than 100m taller than New York’s One World Trade Center tower. It will pass by Earth at a distance of 1.8 million km, nearly five times the gulf between us and the moon.

“Small asteroids pass within this distance of Earth several times each week, but this upcoming close approach is the closest by any known asteroid of this size, or larger, since asteroid Toutatis, a 3.1mile (5km) asteroid, which approached within about four lunar distances in September 2004,” NASA said in a statement.

2014 JO25 was first observed three years ago, when astronomers monitoring the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona with their telescopes spotted it. The survey, sponsored by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observation Programme, scours the skies for potentially life-threatening asteroids in the solar system.

While much of 2014 JO25’s physical properties are unknown, astronomers claim that as well as being big, it is also very shiny, about twice as reflective as the moon. Skywatchers will be able to observe it with a small telescope, visible in the night sky for two evening before slowly fading into the distance after one or two nights.

“The April 19th encounter provides an outstanding opportunity to study this asteroid, and astronomers plan to observe it with telescopes around the world to learn as much about it as possible,” said NASA.

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