Changing Planet

Asteroid Sails Between Earth and the Moon Tonight

NASA chart depicting to orbital position of the passing asteroid.
NASA chart depicting to orbital position of the passing asteroid.

A newly discovered asteroid will hurtle through the Earth-moon system on Wednesday night. Everyone around the world can watch the event unfold through large telescopes that will broadcast live online.

Asteroid 2014 DX110, discovered only on February 28, 2014, thankfully poses no danger since it will be missing our planet by 218,000 miles (350,837 kilometers). But since it will fly within the orbit of our moon, this makes the mysterious space rock, some 100 feet wide (around 30 meters), potentially hazardous and something that astronomers plan to closely observe.

While only the largest backyard telescopes may be able to hunt down the 16th-magnitude asteroid, a remote-controlled telescope operated by Slooh.com on the Canary Islands, off the coast of West Africa, will try to cover tonight’s asteroid approach, which occurs at 5:07 p.m. EST.

You can catch the live coverage right here starting at 1 p.m. PST / 4:00 p.m. EST / 21:00 GMT.

However, because the asteroid is relatively small and traveling at high speeds, astronomers tracking it say that there is a high probability they may not be able to glimpse the asteroid Wednesday night.

But if they do manage to hunt it down during the webcast, the hope is that by following it over a period of days and weeks, they can accurately calculate its orbit around the sun. That will determine if this Earth-crossing asteroid has any future chances of impact.

The trajectory of the small asteroid passing by Earth on Wednesday. Credit: Slooh.com

And if that is not enough celestial excitement, another much larger near-Earth asteroid dubbed 2014 CU13 will be sailing past our planet on Tuesday, March 11, only at a much greater distance.

The size of an 80-story building, this space-mountain-size rock will be making its closest approach to Earth some eight times farther away than the moon.

Slooh will again attempt to beam a live broadcast from its observatory on the Canary Islands on Sunday, March 9, at 7 p.m. PDT / 10 p.m. EDT / 02:00 GMT (3/10), in order to call attention to this asteroid so that amateur astronomers can help researchers further pinpoint its orbit.

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.
  • Ferris

    Just discovered 5 days ago?!

  • Ferris

    Just discovered 5 days ago?!

  • Ashleigh Noland

    This article is one of the most well written and put together pieces that I have read in quite along time. I enjoy and greatly appreciate reading things such as this! Good Job keep up the Good Work … Smile and don’t forget to remember little things that

  • Ashleigh Noland

    This article is one of the most well written and put together pieces that I have read in quite along time. I enjoy and greatly appreciate reading things such as this! Good Job keep up the Good Work … Smile and don’t forget to remember little things that

  • Eric

    I’m surprised here’s 7AM and no one has said anything stupid about this yet!!!Congratulations America,getting better,I HOPE!!!

  • Eric

    I’m surprised here’s 7AM and no one has said anything stupid about this yet!!!Congratulations America,getting better,I HOPE!!!

  • Nura haruna

    It is real, close examination of the object.

  • Nura haruna

    It is real, close examination of the object.

  • ramon sagala

    intelligent discovery…..

  • ramon sagala

    intelligent discovery…..

  • R. Jacobs

    Although 2014 CU13 is said to be further away from us than our moon, what type of damage would a 180-metre astroid do if it actually collided with earth? Can anyone answer that question, or know where I can search for the information (and PLEASE don’t reply ‘the internet’)? :-

  • R. Jacobs

    Although 2014 CU13 is said to be further away from us than our moon, what type of damage would a 180-metre astroid do if it actually collided with earth? Can anyone answer that question, or know where I can search for the information (and PLEASE don’t reply ‘the internet’)? :-

  • Patti

    Looks like it will be over us between 1930 and 2130. 7:30pm to 9:30 if my calculations are correct.

  • Patti

    Looks like it will be over us between 1930 and 2130. 7:30pm to 9:30 if my calculations are correct.

  • alex garcia

    Asteroid 2014 CU13 Live! for another space rock the size of a skyscrraper will fly fast by the earth by another potentially hazardous asteroid within the earth-moon system…

    http://bit.ly/1cN6HcU

  • alex garcia

    Asteroid 2014 CU13 Live! for another space rock the size of a skyscrraper will fly fast by the earth by another potentially hazardous asteroid within the earth-moon system…

    http://bit.ly/1cN6HcU

  • BloodWolf

    This one is passing between the moon AND earth. it will be closer to us than the moon.

    I’m concerned about tetonic events.

  • BloodWolf

    This one is passing between the moon AND earth. it will be closer to us than the moon.

    I’m concerned about tetonic events.

  • marklade

    This is amazing – here is a collection of pictures how Earth looks from Mars from NASA http://earthspacecircle.blogspot.com/p/earth-from-space.html

  • marklade

    This is amazing – here is a collection of pictures how Earth looks from Mars from NASA http://earthspacecircle.blogspot.com/p/earth-from-space.html

  • Wade

    R. Jacobs: There are a lot of variables, but here is some information. The minimum at which an incoming rock will hit the atmosphere is 11 km./sec., dictated by the Earth’s gravity well. The maximum speed is about 80 km./sec., because if it is moving faster than that it is over solar escape speed and so is not part of the solar system; there is nothing saying it is impossible for a rock to enter the solar system from interstellar space, but nothing has ever been seen moving fast enough to qualify.

    At 11 km.sec., kinetic energy of a one tonne rock is equal to the energy released by 20 tonnes of TNT. Kinetic energy goes up as the square of the speed.

    If the asteroid is spherical, and most of them are not, then 180 metre diameter equals 90 metres radius. Four thirds times pi times the cube of the radius gives you a volume of about 3 million cubic metres. Rock typically is about three times as dense as water, or three tonnes per cubic metre.

    So, very roughly, the 180 metre asteroid will mass about 9 million tonnes, and at minimum speed will yield 180 megatonnes of energy, and if it is moving fast may yield twenty or thirty times that much.

    So, if the asteroid is low density rock, is non-spherical with 180 metres being its length along its longest axis, and hits at minimum speed, you might get as little as a 50 megaton event. If it is higher density and moving fast, it might yield as much as five or six gigatonnes.

    Even at the high end, this is not a continent destroyer. You might see total destruction within fifty or 100 km. of the impact point, with diminishing but still significant prompt damage for two or three hundred km. beyond that. There would likely be earth tremors felt around the globe, and enough dust kicked into the stratosphere to reverse AGW for a decade or two.

  • Wade

    R. Jacobs: There are a lot of variables, but here is some information. The minimum at which an incoming rock will hit the atmosphere is 11 km./sec., dictated by the Earth’s gravity well. The maximum speed is about 80 km./sec., because if it is moving faster than that it is over solar escape speed and so is not part of the solar system; there is nothing saying it is impossible for a rock to enter the solar system from interstellar space, but nothing has ever been seen moving fast enough to qualify.

    At 11 km.sec., kinetic energy of a one tonne rock is equal to the energy released by 20 tonnes of TNT. Kinetic energy goes up as the square of the speed.

    If the asteroid is spherical, and most of them are not, then 180 metre diameter equals 90 metres radius. Four thirds times pi times the cube of the radius gives you a volume of about 3 million cubic metres. Rock typically is about three times as dense as water, or three tonnes per cubic metre.

    So, very roughly, the 180 metre asteroid will mass about 9 million tonnes, and at minimum speed will yield 180 megatonnes of energy, and if it is moving fast may yield twenty or thirty times that much.

    So, if the asteroid is low density rock, is non-spherical with 180 metres being its length along its longest axis, and hits at minimum speed, you might get as little as a 50 megaton event. If it is higher density and moving fast, it might yield as much as five or six gigatonnes.

    Even at the high end, this is not a continent destroyer. You might see total destruction within fifty or 100 km. of the impact point, with diminishing but still significant prompt damage for two or three hundred km. beyond that. There would likely be earth tremors felt around the globe, and enough dust kicked into the stratosphere to reverse AGW for a decade or two.

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