An asteroid somewhere between the size of New York’s Statue of Liberty and Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa is set to fly safely past Earth on Tuesday.
Estimated to stretch about 170-400 feet across, asteroid 2010 WC9 should pass at about half the distance to the Moon at its closest approach at 6:05 p.m. ET. It’s not a particularly big asteroid, but this will be a pretty close encounter for a space rock of this size.
Although it will travel remarkably close to Earth, 2010 WC9 does not present any risk to our planet. It is much larger than the Chelyabinsk meteor that entered the skies above Russia in 2013, but its trajectory will not bring it close enough to penetrate Earth’s atmosphere.
You may be able to spot this space rock from home. According to EarthSky, the asteroid won’t be visible to the naked eye. But, if you point a small telescope in exactly the right direction at exactly the right time, you should be able to spy the asteroid through your lens. 2010 WC9, EarthSky reports, is traveling at about 28,655 miles per hour—that’s one-tenth the speed of a bolt of lightning.
If you don’t have a telescope, you can still enjoy the asteroid. If the weather stays clear in London on Monday night, you should be able to catch a glimpse of the asteroid online through a live feed from Northolt Branch Observatories from about 7:00 p.m. ET. This is the night before Tuesday’s close approach.
Astronomers discovered 2010 WC9 in 2010, but then “lost” it for nearly eight years. Telescopes lost sight of the space rock because it became very faint, EarthSky reports. Then, on May 8, 2018, astronomers spotted an asteroid which they temporarily called ZJ99C60. Soon recognizing it was the long-lost 2010 WC9, they reverted back to its original title.
As well as making great astronomy targets, asteroids offer potentially huge financial and scientific opportunities. Neil DeGrasse Tyson recently told CNBC that the world’s first trillionaire would likely be an asteroid-miner.
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