Yet another close call in the night sky tonight at an asteroid, roughly the size of a mountain, passed very close to the Earth in astronomical terms. Dubbed, asteroid 2004 BL86, the space rock which measures about 1,800 feet wide, passed only about 745,000 miles of the Earth.
While that may sound like a lot, at a distance close to three times that from the Earth to the Moon, only a very small change in its orbit could have brought the asteroid much closer.
Here’s where to look to See Asteroid 2004 BL86 in the Night Sky
During this close asteroid flyby, astronomers had a great opportunity to see asteroid 2004 BL86 at close range.
According to a release earlier today, scientists planned to observe the asteroid using the 230-foot (70 m) dish-shaped Goldstone antenna at NASA’s Deep Space Network in California, and also using the 1,000-foot (305 m) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
“For objects that get this close, that are this large, the radar observations are really analogous to a spacecraft flyby in terms of the caliber of the data that we can get,” said Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who is the principal investigator for the Goldstone observations of the asteroid.
NASA officials were quick to point out that asteroid 2004 BL86 does not pose a threat to Earth now, or in the near future. The observations today will help researchers better understand the precise orbit and predict any future threat.