Jul 17, 2019 | Updated: 11:17 AM EDT

Massive Asteroid Doing a Flyby of Earth

Jan 25, 2015 07:48 PM EST

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Artist Depiction of Asteroid
(Photo : Iain Thomson)

An asteroid measuring approximately 1,800 feet across will fly pass the Earth on Monday, according to scientists from NASA.

The space rock, known as 2004 BL86, will miss us by a narrow 745,000 miles, or about three times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.  The asteroid will pass close enough that even amateur astronomers should be able to catch a glimpse of the giant rock as it passes by with telescopes and even binoculars.

According to experts from NASA this will be the closest encounter we will have with a huge asteroid until 2027, when 1999 AN10 finally flies by.  It will also be the closest that 2004 BL86 gets to the Earth for another 200 years, making viewing this body in space a once-in-a-lifetime event.

The asteroid, first discovered in 2004, is estimated to be about one-third of a mile in size, or the length of about six football fields for all you sports fans.

Don Yeomans, from NASA's Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, says that "while it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it's a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more."

Scientists plan to use microwaves to create radar-generated images of the asteroid during its closest approach to Earth.

"When we get our radar data back the day after the flyby, we will have the first detailed images," radar astronomer, Lance Benner says.  "At present, we know almost nothing about the asteroid, so there are bound to be surprises."

Asteroids provided much of the building blocks of life needed to form what we know today.  As such, they provide scientists with great insight into the origins of our world and are also currently being studied as a source for valuable minerals in the future.

Until then, space buffs around the world should head outside and peer up into the sky to sneak a peak at this asteroid waving as it passes by.

I may grab my favorite binoculars and give it a shot myself," Yeomans says. "Asteroids are something special. Not only did asteroids provide Earth with the building blocks of life and much of its water, but in the future, they will become valuable resources for mineral ores and other vital natural resources."

The asteroid 2004 BL86 was first discovered on January 30, 2004 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research, which is responsible for most of the asteroid discoveries from 1998 until 2005.  This asteroid orbits the Sun ever 1.84 years but will not be this close to Earth during our lifetimes.

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