Changing Planet

Watch Potentially Hazardous Asteroid Whip Past Earth

Artwork showing an asteroid zipping by the Earth moon system. Credit: ILLUSTRATION COURTESY P. CARRIL, ESA
Artwork showing an asteroid zipping by the Earth moon system. Credit: ILLUSTRATION COURTESY P. CARRIL, ESA

A giant space rock three times the size of football field is about to sail past Earth. Its passage will be broadcast live around the world via the web.

 Near ­Earth Asteroid (NEO), 2000 EM26, measuring 885 feet (270 meters) across and traveling at a speed of 27,000 miles per hour will zip by our planet on Monday, February 17th.
Thankfully there is no chance of collision since it will miss our planet by a safe margin of 0.018 Astronomical Unit (AU)  or 2.6 million kilometers, nearly 9 times the distance separating the Earth from the moon.
Remote controlled telescopes operated by SLOOH on the Canary Islands, off the coast of West Africa, will cover the asteroid’s closest approach to our planet, which occurs at 4:59 p.m. EST. You can catch the live coverage tonight starting at 6 p.m. PST / 9 p.m. EST. (Find out when the broadcast will occur in your time zone.)
Since it will be shining at only a feeble 16th magnitude in the northern sky constellation Bootes, the herdsman, do not expect it to be visible in small backyard telescopes.
Sky chart showing the location of asteroid 2000 EM26 during its closest approach to Earth on February 17, 2014. Credit: Courtesy of SLOOH
Sky chart showing the location of asteroid 2000 EM26 during its closest approach to Earth on February 17, 2014. Credit: Courtesy of SLOOH
This cosmic close encounter comes on the heels of the first anniversary of two unusual asteroid events which occurred on February 15, 2013.  That’s when 98-foot (30 meter) wide asteroid 2012 DA14 buzzed by our planet.
The office-building sized chunk of rock came closer to Earth than most orbiting communication and weather satellites.  (See: Asteroid to Make Closest Flyby in History.)
Coincidentally, that same day another  65-foot-wide (20-meter-wide) meteor exploded above the central Russian city of Chelyabinsk. (See also “Best Videos from Meteor Strike in Russia.”)
“On a practical level, a previously ­unknown, undiscovered asteroid seems to hit our planet and cause damage or injury once a century or so, as we witnessed on June 20, 1908 and February 15, 2013. Every few centuries, an even more massive asteroid strikes us ­­ fortunately usually impacting in an ocean or wasteland such an Antarctica,”  says Bob Berman, an astronomer with SLOOH broadcast.
“But the ongoing threat, and the fact that biosphere ­altering events remain a real if small annual possibility, suggests that discovering and tracking all NEOs, as well as setting up contingency plans for deflecting them on short notice should the need arise, would be a wise use of resources.”
Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter,  Facebook, and his website.
Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.
  • Neil Murray

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If all the nuclear powers agreed to dedicate their weapons and research to preventing a catastrophic meteor crash with earth, they would deserve the thanks of a grateful world. What good does it do to be No. 1 in hydrogen bombs if a big rock has exterminated humanity?

  • HC

    Event times shown as Daylight Time? If so, why? If not, please straighten us out. Thanks

  • Steve

    What makes this particular asteroid “potentially hazardous”? The title weakens the once credible “National Geographic” name, don’t you think?

  • Gary

    How is this potentially hazardous? Your article completely counters what the title conveys! Why so misleading?

  • ELH

    How, exactly, is missing the earth by over 2,000,000 miles ‘potentially hazardous?’ Would you consider changing your headline?

  • ron

    “Watch Potentially Hazardous Asteroid Whip Past Earth” – ?? ???
    “Thankfully there is no chance of collision since it will miss our planet by a safe margin of 0.018 Astronomical Unit (AU) or 2.6 million kilometers, nearly 9 times the distance separating the Earth from the moon.”
    Way to go NG and
    Andrew Fazekas in StarStruck

  • Arlen Graves

    “You can catch the live coverage tonight starting at 6 p.m. PDT / 9 p.m. EDT. (Find out when the broadcast will occur in your time zone.)”
    Isn’t EDT Eastern Daylight Savings Time, which starts at 2:00 AM March 9th, 2014.

  • Thankfully there is no chance for impact this time. This asteroid was only discovered in 2000 and is officially classified by astronomers as potentially hazardous (PHA), Near-Earth Object (NEO) since it is part of the Aten group of asteroids which regularly cross Earth’s orbit and therefore does pose a risk for impact. At some 270 meters wide it is also large enough to cause significant regional damage if it did hit. (source: )

    While calculations show that until the year 2200 it looks like EM26 won’t impact Earth- beyond that we can’t say – so there is no doubt astronomers will keep an eye on this space rock. (source:;cad=1#cad )

  • C.L. Kostoe

    If you want to read more about celestial collisions with earth check out my latest book titled After The Bomb available at

  • Renee

    Would you by any chance know what was low in the western sky tonight that looked like a comet with a tail, and seemed to be reflecting the setting sun?The tail looked wider and shorter than a jet trail. I thought it might be the asteroid but from reading here, I would guess it wasn’t.

  • Wal

    First of all, the movie Armageddon was completely fictional…. using bombs on an aseteroid would have no effect, probably just make it worse! Also, everyone wondering why this is “potentially hazardous” is just showing that they have no idea what they are talking about and do not understand the scale of the universe. Believe it or not, 2,000,000 miles is close when you consider the scale of things and this asteroid needs to be kept in check. A slight deflection off another asteroid somewhere on its next revolution could send it straight towards Earth. Not to mention, it may over time, as stated in the article, have Earths name on it anyways. Please research how big our universe is and maybe you will understand why It is considered close and potentially hazardous. When you are traveling at 27,00 miles an hour you can make up distances very quickly. Understand that our perspective of things from Earth is just that, we tend to think that things like time and distance are the same throughout when really they are only relative to where you are currently within our universe. Sorry to ramble on but I felt it necessary to say what the writer probably wants to.


    THANK GOD , kudoos to scientists

  • David

    Where’s the site to watch the asteroid?

  • Olson, Michael

    I am sorry to say that there not a bomb or bombs big enough or let alone fast enough to successfully destroy a meteor. No need to sugar coat it. One day we will all see the impact and the end to the human race.

  • Rudy Haugeneder — “HUGE ASTEROID” HYPE: Major news outlets are reporting the close approach of a “huge asteroid” to Earth on February 17-18. 2000 EM26 is about as wide as 2 football fields and it is flying past our planet 2 million miles away at 27,000 mph. It’s all true. It’s also all hype. This asteroid is little different than half-a-dozen other space rocks that have already whizzed passed Earth at similar distances in February, including one, 2006 DP14, that is almost 4 times larger. The sudden attention to 2000 EM26 is disproportionate to its actual uniqueness or potential impact. For a real close encounter, click here.

    • I think the reason this asteroid event got the coverage it has is not because of any imminent threat it may pose (that is obvious from orbital data from JPL and the Minor Planet Center; source:;cad=1#cad ), but in large part that it was being tracked LIVE by large telescopes and broadcast free on the web with professional astronomer commentary.

      The interest or ‘hype’ (as some are calling it) the event may have garnered worldwide offers a wonderful public education opportunity on NEO’s in general and an opportunity to explain to the general population why we must remain keenly aware of these potentially hazardous asteroids and the importance of surveying them.

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