NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has spotted a giant, “city killer” asteroid in space that’s currently flying toward Earth. And this Friday, February 2, it will reach its closest approach to our planet, about 1. 77 million miles away.
For reference, the moon is about 239,000 miles from Earth, so this asteroid will be 7. 4 times farther than the moon. The speedy space rock is expected to be zipping along at about 41,000 mph and measures roughly 890 feet across or roughly the size of an entire US football stadium, according to NASA.
Experts sometimes call asteroids this size “city killers” because they are capable of destroying an entire city if they collide with an inhabited part of Earth.
Still, this asteroid will be too small and far away to see without a telescope on Friday. In fact, it will be about 10,000 times fainter than the faintest stars visible to the naked eye, Gianluca Masi, an astrophysicist and the scientific director of The Virtual Telescope Project, told Business Insider over e-mail.
But, if you are interested in catching a glimpse at the passing asteroid you have a chance!
Masi and his colleagues at VTP will be recording the event live starting at 1 p.m. ET on Friday. You can watch their livestream on YouTube or in the video below:
The livestream will track Asteroid 2008 OS7 as it flies by Earth. The viewers will see it as a small dot that moves past fixed stars in the background. The livestream will last about 45 minutes, Masi said. Masi said that
VTP had recorded similar flybys and “it’s always fascinating to watch,” Masi stated.
About asteroid 2008 OS7
Asteroid 2008 OS7 orbits the sun every 962 days. After passing by Earth, it will continue along its oval-shaped path through our solar system.
Due to its oblong orbit, the distance between Earth and this asteroid changes significantly each time it approaches.
For example, according to spacereference.com, upon its next closest approach in July 2037, it will be about 9. 7 million miles away from Earth — nearly 5. 5 times farther than during Friday’s encounter.
Potentially hazardous asteroids
Asteroid 2008 OS7 is what NASA calls a “potentially hazardous” asteroid because of its size and how close it flies past Earth.
An asteroid is considered “potentially hazardous” if it is at least 460 feet in diameter and orbits Earth within a distance of about 4. 65 million miles.
But NASA believes there may be many others that are yet undiscovered. If a giant asteroid was on course to hit Earth, we’d need 5-10 years warning to destroy or deflect it.
NASA JPL is currently working on the Near-Earth Object Surveyor mission, set to launch in September 2027 and send an infrared space telescope into Earth’s orbit to expand NASA’s search for near-Earth objects that could potentially threaten our planet.