At 11:19 a.m. on Jan. 26, an asteroid flying through space missed Earth – just barely. Although the space projectile was 750,000 miles away from Earth at its closest point, it was very close in astronomical terms. This seems laughable, because the distance between the asteroid and Earth was more than the distance from the Earth to the moon, but astronomers point out that it was only three times more.
The asteroid, which some estimated to be the size of a “mountain,” was visible for some on Earth, while others might not have had the chance due to inclement weather. Although the closest the asteroid came to Earth was at around 11 a.m., the best time to view it was at 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Jan. 26. The asteroid was as its brightest at 11:00 a.m. that day, but it could not be seen then because of the sun. While the best time for Pacific Time was 9:00 p.m. the best time for the East coast was 8:00 p.m.
The moving mountain was estimated at the size of almost six football fields, or less than half of a mile. After Jan. 26, the space rock will not come as close to Earth for another 200 years. The projectile was discovered on Jan. 30, 2004.
The space rock, named BL86, is very large, considering they are usually less than 100 feet wide. According to Don Yeomans, manager of the Near Earth Object Program Office at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, this space rock will be the closest to Earth until 1999AN10 flies past in 2027 as predicted.
BL86’s full name is 2004BL86 – 2004 because it is the year in which it was discovered. The asteroid “barely” missed Earth this time, coming just 745,000 miles away from the planet, which, says Yeomans, and he adds that this produces an ideal to enhance our knowledge.
2004BL86 may seem insignificant due to the fact that it was not even six football fields wide, but the space rock does have a moon – a small moon, but a moon nevertheless. The moon has not yet received a name and it is not known how old it is, but NASA is currently studying the data is has collected. The asteroid has been known to NASA for 11 years, but NASA has just now discovered the moon. This is significant because it is a variable, and could have formed recently or perhaps was there all along.
Yeomans added that, asteroids are unique. Asteroids provided Earth with the supplies for life and copious amounts of water but in the future; they will become abundant resources for minerals and other invaluable resources, an unknown reason as to why he just wants to look at the sky.
The next time an event like this will happen is in 12 years, and next time it is predicted to come even closer when it “barely” misses Earth. AN10 will be 28 years old when it enters the atmosphere. BL86 is predicted to enter the Earth’s atmosphere next when it is at least 211 years old.
By Jacob Dowd
Photo by Mike Lewinski – License