Tonight is a big night for skywatchers thanks to the relatively close approach of a large asteroid called 2014 JO25. The rock is slated to make its closest approach to Earth later tonight, and thanks to some very excited stargazers you can catch a glimpse of it yourself right from your computer screen.
Astronomers with the Slooh observatory will be taking a close look at the asteroid during a live stream beginning tonight at 7 pm EDT. You can view the stream in the video player above. The group is planning to use its Canary Island telescopes to catch a glimpse of the rock as it cruises by Earth at the shortest distance in 400 years. These kinds of events don’t happen all that often, so if you don’t have anything else to do it’s probably worth tuning in.
Slooh describes 2014 JO25 thusly:
Not much is known about the asteroid itself, including its makeup and even its exact size. Estimates put it between 650 meters (about 2,000 feet) and 1.4 kilometers. The asteroid will be moving at about 33 meters per second – and come within 4.6 lunar distances of the Earth – when it makes its close approach at 12:24 UTC on the 19th. Slooh Astronomers will be tracking the asteroid and submitting data to the Minor Planet Center in order to better understand its physical properties.
The asteroid does not pose any tangible threat to Earth, according to researchers, but if a rock of its size were to impact our planet it would “have a calamitous effect at the local and even regional level,” according to Slooh. Still, it wouldn’t cause extinction-level destruction, which is a small comfort.