A large asteroid discovered three years ago will whiz past Earth on Wednesday, but there’s no need to panic.
The asteroid — named 2014 JO25 — is a big one, roughly 650 metres in diameter. Its orbit will take it about 1.8 million kilometres away from Earth. To put that into perspective, it’s almost four times the distance from Earth to the moon.
The asteroid was discovered in May 2014 as part of the Catalina Sky Survey near Tuscon, Ariz. The survey is part of NASA’s Center of Near-Earth Object Studies program which is constantly searching for asteroids that could pose a danger to Earth in the near future.
Visible from Earth
The asteroid has twice the reflectivity the moon does, though little else is known.
After the sun sets on Wednesday, the asteroid should be visible to those using a small telescope. It’s expected to be visible for two days before it moves away from Earth.
Earth passes through debris every day, with an estimated 100 tons of meteoroids (dust and rocks that do not reach the surface) entering our atmosphere. Those pieces that are larger burn up in our atmosphere, and can be seen streaking across the sky.
There are also large bits of space debris, left over from the formation of the universe. The pieces of debris larger than meteors, known as asteroids, pass within this distance of the planet more frequently, sometimes a few times a week. But objects as large as 2014 JO25 are rare.
The last asteroid of similar size or larger to pass this close to Earth was Toutatis in September 2004; it was roughly five-kilometres wide and passed within four lunar orbits.