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.

Changing Planet

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.