small asteroid will make an extremely close pass by
Earth Friday (Jan. 27), coming much nearer than the
moon, but the space rock poses no danger of impacting
our planet, NASA scientists say.
newfound asteroid 2012 BX34,
which is about the size of a city bus, will pass within
36,750 miles (59,044 kilometers) of Earth at about 10:30
a.m. EST (1530 GMT) Friday, astronomers with NASA's
Asteroid Watch program announced via Twitter.
space rock is about 36 feet (11 meters) wide, making it
much too small to pose a threat to Earth.
wouldn't get through our atmosphere intact even if it
dared to try," Asteroid Watch scientists tweeted today
(Jan. 26). Asteroid Watch is based at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
2012 BX34 will zip by at a distance about 0.17 times
that separating Earth and the moon. The moon orbits
Earth at an average distance of about 240,000 miles
(386,000 km). [Video and image of
asteroid 2012 BX34's orbit]
asteroid won't hit Earth, it may offer
seasoned amateur astronomers a great show — if they are
in the right viewing location and have good equipment.
amateur astronomers might be able to observe the flyby
as the asteroid brightens to 14th magnitude just before
closest approach on Friday," the website Spaceweather.com reported today.
astronomers' classification system, higher magnitudes
correspond to dimmer objects. The full moon, for
example, has a magnitude around -12.75. A magnitude of
+14 would put 2012 BX34 roughly on par with the maximum
brightness of the distant dwarf planet Pluto.
scientists and other astronomer teams regularly monitor
the skies in search of asteroids that could pose a
danger to Earth. Experts estimate that asteroids
measuring about 460 feet (140 m) across can cause
widespread destruction near their impact sites, but
they'd need to be even larger to cause devastation on a
September, NASA announced that it had catalogued about
90 percent of the largest asteroids whose orbits bring
them near Earth — a major goal set by Congress in 1998.
Using NASA's recent WISE asteroid-mapping mission as a
guide, scientists estimate that there are about 981
near-Earth asteroids the size of a mountain or larger.
About 911 of those space rocks have been spotted, WISE
mission scientists said.
and mapping the orbits of such potentially hazardous
space rocks is a task crucial to the long-term survival
of our species, many scientists say.
history, asteroids big enough to cause major damage and
disruption to the global economy and society (were they
to strike a populated area today) have hit Earth, on
average, every 200 or 300 years, according to former
astronaut Rusty Schweickart.
chairs the B612 Foundation, a group dedicated to
predicting and preventing cataclysmic asteroid impacts
on Earth. The group's chief message is that humanity's
survival will someday depend on our ability to deflect a killer
asteroid away from Earth.
dinosaurs possessed no such technology, of course, and a
catastrophic impact wiped them out — along with many
other plant and animal species — 65 million years ago.