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Massive 1 km Asteroid to Fly by Earth Tonight – Here’s How to Watch

A 1 km asteroid will fly by Earth tonight, but poses no threat. Here’s what you need to know to watch.

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NASA illustration depicts an asteroid in space.  — Photo: NASA/Disclosure

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An asteroid of about 1.2 km in diameter will be passing relatively close to Earth on the night of February 15th. However, there’s no need to panic as the asteroid poses no threat to us.

According to NASA, the asteroid, known as 199145 (2005 YY128), will pass at a distance of about 4.5 million kilometers, which is approximately 12 times the average distance between Earth and the Moon.

Although the object is classified as a Near Earth Asteroid (NEO) and a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) due to its proximity, it is not a threat to us. This is simply a technical classification, as explained by astronomer Pedro Bernardinelli.

At 7:46 p.m. EST on February 15th (0046 GMT on Feb. 16), the near-Earth asteroid 2005 YY128 will come within 2.8 million miles (4.5 million km) of our planet, which is closer than it has been for more than 400 years, according to EarthSky.

However, experts assure that the asteroid will not hit us on this pass as it is still 12 times the distance from Earth to the Moon.

Astronomers first discovered 2005 YY128 in 2005 at the Kitt Peak Observatory in southern Arizona, and over the past 17 years, they have mapped its orbit with a high degree of precision. However, they have not yet determined its exact size. The asteroid’s diameter range is somewhere between 1,903 feet (580 meters) and 4,265 feet (1.3 km), according to EarthSky.

As a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA), 2005 YY128 belongs to the group of space rocks with a diameter of at least 460 feet (140 m) whose orbits bring them within 0.05 astronomical units (AU) of our planet.

asteroidenasa1 scaled
NASA illustration depicts an asteroid in space. 
— Photo: NASA/Disclosure

A single AU is approximately the average Earth-sun distance, which is around 93 million miles (150 million km), meaning that 0.05 AU is roughly 4.6 million miles, or 7.4 million km.

If 2005 YY128 were to hit Earth, it would cause severe damage, no matter which part of its size range the asteroid actually occupies. However, this is not a cause for concern at this time.

It is important to note that 2005 YY128’s close approach occurs on the 10th anniversary of the Chelyabinsk airburst, which happened on February 15th, 2013. On that day, a space rock roughly 65-feet-wide (20 m) exploded without warning over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, causing minor injuries and shattering thousands of windows.

Since then, NASA has opened its Planetary Defense Coordination Office, and scientists around the world are joining forces to better understand the NEO population. NASA and its partners have found more than 95% of the asteroids at least 0.6 miles (1 km) wide that are thought to come within 30 million miles (50 million km) of Earth at some point, and none of them pose a danger for the foreseeable future.

Here’s How to Watch

To watch the asteroid’s close approach to Earth, people can use a telescope with a high magnification, although this is not necessary as it will be too faint to see with the naked eye. For those who do not have access to a telescope, they can still watch the event online through various observatories or space agencies’ live streams.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOgnfT3-Dkc

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