NASA on Wednesday reported that an asteroid, designated “2004 BL86,” will safely pass about three times the distance of the Earth to the Moon January 26.
Astronomers estimated that the asteroid is about a third of a mile (0.5 kilometers) in size from its reflected brightness.
The flyby of 2004 BL86 will be the closest by any known space rock this large until asteroid “1999 AN10” flies past Earth in 2027.
According to NASA statement, at the time of the asteroid’s closest approach on January 26, it will be approximately 1.2 million km from the Earth.
“Jan 26 will be the closest asteroid ‘2004 BL86’ will get to the Earth for at least the next 200 years,” said Don Yeomans from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“And while it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it’s a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more.”
NASA scientists plan to learn more about ‘2004 BL86’ by observing it with microwaves.
NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will attempt to acquire science data and radar-generated images of the asteroid during the days surrounding its closest approach to Earth.
“When we get our radar data back the day after the flyby, we will have the first detailed images,” said radar astronomer Lance Benner of JPL, the principal investigator for the Goldstone radar observations of the asteroid. He said, “At present, we know almost nothing about the asteroid, so there is bound to be surprises.”
Asteroid “2004 BL86” was initially discovered Jan 30, 2004, by a telescope of the LincolnNear-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico.
The asteroid is expected to be observable to amateur astronomers with small telescopes and strong binoculars.