The Lookout

Live from the Web: Asteroid to fly by Earth tonight

The Lookout

Watch an impact caught on the planet Jupiter.

This evening, an asteroid the length of three football fields will buzz by Earth at a rate of 7 miles per second.

The asteroid called 2012 QG42 is about to get its close-up.

A month ago, scientists weren't even aware it existed. But it's now on the radar, and viewers can watch it pass by Earth from the convenience of the Web. No astronomy lessons necessary.

Although tonight's flyby is harmless, the asteroid has been named "potentially hazardous" by the Minor Planet Center. That means it's not dangerous, at least not yet. But it could pose problems in the future.

Meanwhile, this close encounter with the space rock will be a comfortable seven and a half times the distance to the moon—1.8 million miles to us Earth-bound folk—at its closest to us, which will be this evening.
The asteroid won't be viewable by the naked eye or low-powered telescope.

However, the object will be bright enough to see on a live webcast.

The Virtual Telescope Project, run by astronomer Gianluca Masi in Italy, has been tracking the asteroid and will carry a live feed. The Slooh Space Camera will also present a live stream of the event from images caught on its half-meter-wide telescope on the Canary Islands, plus have running commentary.

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