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A massive asteroid is going to come 'very close' to Earth today

Smaller asteroids whizz by Earth several times a week.
Apr 19th 2017, 11:36 AM 21,424 28

AN ASTEROID STRETCHING 650 metres across is on track to whoosh past Earth today at a safe – but uncomfortably close – distance, according to astronomers.

“Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid this size,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.

Dubbed 2014-JO25, the asteroid will come within 1.8 million kilometres of Earth, less than five times the distance to the moon.

It will pass closest to our planet after having looped around the sun.

2014-JO25 will then continue on past Jupiter before heading back toward the centre of our solar system.

Smaller asteroids whizz by Earth several times a week. But the last time one at least this size came as close was in 2004, when Toutatis — five kilometres across — passed within four lunar distances.

The next scheduled close encounter with a big rock will not happen before 2027, when the 800-metre wide asteroid 199-AN10 will fly by at just one lunar distance, about 380,000km.

The last time 2014-JO25 was in our immediate neighbourhood was 400 years ago, and its next brush with Earth won’t happen until sometime after 2600.

The flyby is an “outstanding opportunity” for astronomers and amateur stargazers, NASA said.

“Astronomers plan to observe it with telescopes around the world to learn as much about it as possible,” the US space agency said.

Besides its size and trajectory, scientists also know that its surface is twice as reflective as that of the Moon.

It should be visible with a small optical telescope for one or two nights before moving out of range.

- © AFP, 2017

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