Massive asteroid to brush past Earth: Watch closest encounter in 300 years

Carlton Robbins
May 15, 2018

The closest approach will happen May 15 at 6:05 pm RDT.

According to EarthSky, Tuesday's close encounter will be one of the closest approaches ever observed of an asteroid of this size. The nonprofit organization specializes in observation of near-Earth asteroid and small objects in the solar system. While rocky asteroids tend to explode in the atmosphere, such as the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, if one the size of 2010 WC9 made of iron were to hit the planet, it would leave a crater the size of Meteor Crater west of Winslow, Arizona.

The asteroid is known as the "lost" asteroid because for nearly 8 years after it was last observed scientists couldn't see it in space.

The asteroid measures between 197 and 427 feet in diameter - longer than a football field - and travels at speeds of 28,655 miles per hour, according to EarthSky. The space rock "Asteroid 2010 WC9" will be at 0.53 lunar distance from the Earth.

Asteroid 2010 WC9 is an Apollo type space rock. It might get as bright as magnitude +11, which would make it bright enough to be seen in amateur telescopes pointed at the correct location and time. You can also watch the webcast on Space.com, courtesy of Slooh.

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Guy Wells, from London's Northolt Branch observatory, said: 'The broadcast will last less than 25 minutes, since the asteroid will cross our field of view during this time period.

The asteroid, known as 2010 WC9, was first spotted in November 2010 and was monitored until December of that year, when it became faint to see.

"Asteroids this size approach about this close about once every decade or so, on average", Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The asteroid will proceed pretty quickly (30 minutes of arc per second).

Tuesday night's flyby will be streamed live on Facebook by the Northolt Branch Observatories. Our display will update every five seconds.

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