At 11:19 am ET next Monday, a rare celestial event will be taking place with visibility over North American and European skies. A giant asteroid dubbed 2004 B186 will be travelling past earth at a proximity of only 745,000 miles away. This is the closest that an asteroid of this size will be passing this close to our proximity until the next one predicted to pass in 2027, called 1999 AN10.
NASA has reported that there is no danger of impact with this asteroid as it will be around three times further than the distance between the moon and earth. Currently there are about 550 others that do present a risk to our planet, although much smaller in size.
This presents a unique opportunity for researchers and amateur stargazers alike to witness, observe and learn more about the nature of asteroids. A telescope or high powered binoculars will still be needed to view this rare and exciting event but for those interested who do not have access to this equipment, The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0 will stream the event live on the web.
The space rock will move lazily through the Cancer Constellation and pass by Jupiter looking like a faint and slow moving star. Space scientist Steve Petzold has advised a warning that the celestial body will appear as a tiny pinpoint of light moving through the sky and that it is quite important to know exactly what you are looking for and precisely where. Unlike meteors which often appear in clusters that make them easy to spot, this elusive asteroid will be moving alone and elusively.
On Monday night, NASA will have their eyes trained to the sky and will be using radar engineering to get new pictures and data of this space rock that is around a third of a mile large. Like its name suggests, the asteroid was discovered in 2004 and scientists have been eagerly awaiting their chance to catch a glimpse before it returns into the depths of space, far beyond our reach. The next time it is set to pass by again will be 200 years from now.