A massive 460-foot-wide asteroid will speed past Earth this week. Fortunately, the “Christmas asteroid,” as many have dubbed it, will only come within 420,000 miles of our planet. That means we won’t have to worry about any impact from the asteroid.
What makes this asteroid passing by so intriguing, though, is that skywatchers can get a good look at it if they’re located within the southern hemisphere. The asteroid, officially titled 2015 RN35, is currently barreling through its orbit toward us. It is expected to speed past Earth between December 15 and 19.
Keeping an eye on these massive asteroids like the “Christmas asteroid” continues to be a top priority for many space agencies, especially given the threat that planet-killer asteroids can pose to Earth if they were to impact the planet. In fact, a recently released tool actually lets you see just how much an asteroid impact would affect your city by simulating the crash and subsequent deaths that would follow.
Those looking to get a shot of the asteroid as it speeds past Earth in the coming days will need to look hard, as the asteroid will not shine brightly in the night sky. Additionally, because its closest approach to Earth will only bring it within 420,000 miles, it will still be a good distance away from us, even at its nearest point.
This Christmas asteroid isn’t likely to make any big headlines as it speeds past our planet this week but knowing that it is out there is more than enough for some stargazers who might want a chance at seeing it. Plus, with space agencies working to create asteroid monitoring systems, small asteroids that don’t pose a threat are still a great thing to keep an eye on.
After all, you never know when something small might change the orbit of an asteroid, similar to how NASA’S DART test changed Dimorphos’ orbit earlier this year.