A large asteroid discovered only days ago is set to sweep past the Earth on June 14, 2012. The great team at Slooh.com is going to try to catch it on camera as it goes by – so that you can watch it, too.
The asteroid will pass within about 3.35 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) of our planet, or roughly 14 times the distance between Earth and the moon. It will appear as a 13th magnitude “star” – much too faint to be seen with the eye. There is no danger this asteroid will strike Earth.
This object was discovered only days ago and has been labeled 2012 LZ1 by astronomers. Rob McNaught and his colleagues at Siding Spring, Australia first spotted this object on the night of June 10-11. The asteroid is thought to be about the size of a city block. It’ll make its closest approach to Earth Thursday evening according to U.S. clocks (middle of the night UTC), and the Slooh Space Camera will cover its near-approach live on Slooh.com.
The online viewing is free to the public, starting at 5 p.m. PDT / 8 p.m. EDT / 00:00 UTC (June 15).
Tonight, the asteroid’s discoverer Rob McNaught and Astronomy magazine columnist Bob Berman will be on hand at Slooh.com to discuss.
The asteroid is estimated to be 500 meters (1,650 feet) wide. Slooh’s Canary Island observatory will try to track it.
Because of its size and proximity to Earth, 2012 LZ1 qualifies as a potentially hazardous asteroid. But there is no danger that this asteroid will strike Earth.
2012 LZ1 is roughly the same size as asteroid 2005 YU55, which flew closely past Earth last November. But 2005 YU55 came much closer – within 202,000 miles (325,000 km) of us on the evening of November 8, 2011. A space rock as big as 2005 YU55 hadn’t come so close to Earth since 1976, according to researchers.
Bottom line: A large asteroid – 2012 LZ1 – will sweep closely past Earth on Thursday late afternoon or evening June 14 according to U.S. clocks. It will be the middle of the night in Europe and the Middle East. It will be Friday morning June 15 for Australia and Asia. Slooh.com is hosting an online viewing. Viewing begins at 00:00 UTC. Details here.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.