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.
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.
"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.
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