Giant asteroid zips past Earth

Watch Jumbo Asteroid Zip Past Earth

A passing space rock should offer a rare, bright viewing treat for sky-watchers

On January 26, the largest asteroid until 2027 will make a quick flyby of the Earth-moon system.

Illustration by ESA

A mountain-size space rock will sail past Earth on Monday, offering stargazers a close look at an interplanetary pinball. Luckily, NASA says there is no risk of collision, but it will be a rare astronomically close encounter. Monday fly by carries an estimated energy (based on diameter, speed, and density) equivalent to 6828 large atomic bombs. 

The large asteroid, called 2004 BL86, measures about half a kilometre across. It will make its closest approach to Earth on January 26, coming within only .2 million kilometres from our planet—about three times the distance separating the Earth and the moon.

Also making it of interest to astronomers is the fact that it belongs to a group of 551 known near-Earth asteroids that have the potential for impact sometime in the future.

Asteroid 2004 BL86 was discovered on January 30, 2004, by a telescope of the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico.

This will be a rare opportunity to see a bright flyby of a potentially hazardous asteroid from your backyard. For several hours on Monday, 2004 BL86 it can be seen with naked eye between Beehive cluster and Jupiter.