Not every week starts off with a 900m-long asteroid passing close enough to Earth you can spot it with binoculars. But this evening (Monday, January 26) asteroid 2004 BL86 will miss us by 750,000 miles as it hurtles past at 35,000mph.
- 2004 BL86 made its closest approach to Earth at 4.20pm GMT (11.20am EST) today
- It will remain visible with binoculars or a telescope until tomorrow
- The asteroid passed about 3.1 times the distance of Earth to the moon
- New images suggest the asteroid is 980ft (300 metres) in size
- Astronomers will be hoping to study it as it passes Earth
- But novice stargazers can also view it near Jupiter with binoculars
- Observers in the Americas, Europe, and Africa have the best seats
- It will appear to move backwards in the night sky relative to other stars
- This will be the closest approach of an asteroid this size until 2027
- Nasa says it poses no threat to Earth ‘for the foreseeable future’
Give it another four hours though and you’ll be able to glimpse it moving through the constellation of Hydra to the east-southeast around 8pm. It will be too faint to see with the naked eye but should be visible with a small telescope or binoculars. “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,” said Yeomans. We won’t see another asteroid pass this close to Earth until 2027. If the sky is too cloudy to spot the asteroid – or you can’t lay hold of binoculars – you’ll be able to watch a live stream of the passing thanks to Slooh, the live online observatory.