(CBS SF) — An asteroid a third of a mile wide is poised to soar past the Earth on Jan. 26 — the closest any known space rock this size is expected to fly by until 2027.
NASA estimates the asteroid will safely pass about three times the distance of Earth to the moon, or about 745,000 miles. That’s close enough for amateur astronomers to observe the hunk of rock with small telescopes and strong binoculars.READ MORE: UPDATE: CHP Announce Arrest of Man Who Rode in Back Seat of Driverless Tesla Across Bay Bridge
“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,” NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program said in a statement.
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Scientists at NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, Calif., and at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico plan to learn more about the asteroid, called 2004 BL86, with radar-generated images during the days surrounding its closest approach to Earth.
“I may grab my favorite binoculars and give it a shot myself,” said Don Yeomans, who is retiring as manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. “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.”MORE NEWS: Fremont Teacher Accused of Committing Lewd Acts on Children at School, Tutoring Sessions
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets using both ground and space-based telescopes to determine if their close approaches could be potentially hazardous to our planet.