An asteroid bigger than Earth’s tallest building is set to cruise through the inner Solar System.
There’s no need to panic, but an asteroid a little more than half a mile (1 kilometer) wide will come so close to our planet that amateur astronomers may be able to catch a glimpse of it.
Asteroid 1994 PC1 is coming for a swing from our cosmic corner on Jan. 18. Although it is quite ‘large’ as space rocks, it will zip at a distance of 1.2 million miles (1.93 million kilometers) from Earth at rest. That’s more than five times the distance between our planet and the Moon, so if you’re not worried about the Moon crashing into your home next week, you shouldn’t be worried about this asteroid either.
“Near-Earth asteroid 1994 PC1 is very famous and studied by our planetary defense experts for decades,” NASA tweeted on Wednesday. “Be assured, 1994 PC1 will safely fly over our planet.”
Asteroids go round us pretty much every day. Thousands are cataloged and tracked and most passing by our planet are very small. 1994 PC1 is an enormous one to venture outside the asteroid belt so far, but by no means unprecedented.
The stony giant will be accelerating relative to Earth at 43,754 miles per hour (19.5 kilometers per second). All that speed would make it observable to backyard telescopes with a diameter of about 6 inches or more. The easiest way to find out is to use some kind of skywatching software like Stellarium or a website like In the Sky.
NASA’s Eyes website also provides some great visualizations to track the progress of 1994 PC1.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate where you are or you’re not a backyard astronomer, the Virtual Telescope Project based in Rome will be livestreaming a watch party.