A big asteroid will safely fly by Earth early tomorrow morning (April 29), and you can watch it approach our planet in real time tonight with a free webcast from the Slooh online observatory.
Slooh will broadcast live telescope views of the near-Earth asteroid, called 1998 OR2, tonight (April 28) beginning at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT). You can watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of Slooh, or directly from Slooh and its YouTube page. This webcast will be free for anyone to watch, but paid members of Slooh can also tune in at Slooh.com and join a so-called "star party" on Zoom, where viewers will be able to join the discussion. Slooh astronomers will also be answering members' questions during this "star party."
The one-hour public event will commence just 11 hours before asteroid 1998 OR2 will make its closest approach to Earth, tomorrow at 5:56 a.m. EDT (0956 GMT). At that time, the asteroid will be about 3.9 million miles (6.3 million kilometers) from Earth, or about 16 times the average distance between Earth and the moon.
While asteroid 1998 OR2 poses no threat to our planet at this time, NASA has classified it as a "potentially hazardous" asteroid due to its large size and the fact that its orbit intersects with Earth's orbit around the sun. Astronomers have estimated that asteroid 1998 OR2 has a diameter of approximately 1.2 miles (2 km).
"Near-Earth asteroid '1998 OR2' is humongous — it's 2 km (1.2 miles) in diameter and travelling at an astonishing 19,461 mph," Slooh astronomer Paul Cox said in a statement. "Slooh members have been tracking this Goliath of a space rock over recent weeks as it approaches Earth using Slooh's robotic telescopes in the Canary Islands and Chile," he added. "There's no chance of the asteroid impacting Earth as it whizzes by at a distance of 6,290,365 km (3,908,651 miles) tonight, but that is a mere stone's throw in astronomical terms — especially for a space rock of this size!"
Although it is millions of miles from Earth, asteroid 1998 OR2's large size allows telescopes to spot the space rock. During tonight's "star party," astronomers will use Slooh's two Planewave 17-inch (432 millimeter) telescopes in Chile and the Canary Islands to capture live images of asteroid 1998 OR2.
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Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.