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.

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.