Late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, an asteroid approximately the size of the Empire State Building will zip by Earth. Much like the smaller space rock that soared past our pale blue dot on March 2, this Near-Earth Object poses no imminent threat to humans.
The object in question, dubbed 2017 VR12, will pass within 900,000 miles of Earth. For context, that’s roughly three times farther away than the moon.
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Even though this asteroid will keep its distance compared to some of its recent predecessors, it’s so big that astronomers have called it a “very strong radar target”. Stargazers will have a chance to see it as it makes it closest approach at around 2:53 a.m. Eastern.
NASA’s Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii first spotted 2017 VR12 back in November 2017. The space agency estimates it could be anywhere from 650 to 1476 feet in diameter, which is pretty sizable. Still, onlookers will need some optical aid to spot it.
EarthSky says the asteroid will be most observable when it’s in front of the constellation Virgo. This patch of sky will be visible at around 11 p.m. Eastern and 9:30 p.m. Pacific for those residing in North America.
If you don’t have a telescope of your own, don’t sweat it. Starting at 7 p.m. Eastern, The Virtual Telescope Project will begin live coverage of 2017 VR12’s approach. So instead of having to pinpoint the object yourself, viewers will get a full view and commentary on the event.
While 2017 VR12 is technically considered “potentially hazardous” by NASA, don’t freak out. This cosmic boulder is way too far to cause us any harm. Just enjoy it cruise by Earth.