Partner Series

An asteroid the size of a sports stadium zoomed close by Earth Wednesday (March 7), and eagle-eyed stargazers captured the whole thing on camera. The asteroid won't be back again until 2026, according to NASA.

The asteroid 2017 VR12 passed within about 898,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) at its closest point during the flyby. That's about 3.8 times the average distance between the Earth and moon (about 238,855 miles or 384,400 km), NASA officials said. [In Photos: Potentially Dangerous Asteroids]

Astrophysicist Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project and Michael Schwartz of Tenagra Observatories in Arizona captured the video of the asteroid seen during its flyby. In the footage, the asteroid appears as a bright dot while a background of stars whizzes by.

Asteroid 2017 VR12 made a close flyby of Earth on March 7, 2018. The Virtual Telescope Project and Tenagra Observatories combined 240 images into a short video of the asteroid, which was about 898,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from Earth.
Asteroid 2017 VR12 made a close flyby of Earth on March 7, 2018. The Virtual Telescope Project and Tenagra Observatories combined 240 images into a short video of the asteroid, which was about 898,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from Earth.
Credit: Gianluca Masi (Virtual Telescope Project) & Michael Schwartz (Tenagra Observatories)

To make the video, the telescope tracked the motion of the asteroid, which appears stationary, over the course of 122 minutes early Tuesday. Masi and Schwartz combined 240 images to make the short, 16-second video.

Asteroid 2017 VR12 is 840 feet (256 meters) across and about the size of a stadium, according to the Asteroid Watch program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

NASA classifies any asteroid that's larger than 492 feet (150 meters) across and that comes within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million km) of Earth as potentially hazardous. But don't worry about 2017 VR12 — it won't be coming any closer anytime soon, NASA said.

This image of the asteroid 2017 VR12 was taken during the asteroid's closest approach to Earth on March 7, 2018 by the Virtual Telescope Project and Tenagra Observatories. The asteroid was about 898,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) at the time.
This image of the asteroid 2017 VR12 was taken during the asteroid's closest approach to Earth on March 7, 2018 by the Virtual Telescope Project and Tenagra Observatories. The asteroid was about 898,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) at the time.
Credit: asteroid 2017 vr12, near-earth asteroids, asteroid flybys, asteroid close encounters, virtual telescope project

"The 2018 encounter is the closest by this asteroid currently known," scientists with NASA's Goldstone radar astronomy project wrote in an update. The asteroid's next close flyby will be on March 19, 2026, they added.

Asteroid 2017 VR12 was discovered on Nov. 10, 2017, (hence its name) by the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii.

NASA astronomers used the agency's Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, California, to take radar observations of near-Earth asteroids and learn more about the composition of passing space rocks.


Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.