A bus-sized asteroid is passing safely by Earth today and you can watch for free

A space rock at least the size of a bus will safely whiz by our planet today, and you can watch the event on a free livestream.

The Virtual Telescope Project will broadcast the flyby of asteroid 2022 NF from Rome, Italy, where the project is situated. If weather conditions allow, you can watch the livestream starting at 4 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) in the window above or directly from the Virtual Telescope Project.

At a nearest approach of 56,000 miles (90,000 kilometers), 2022 NF will come within about 23% of the distance to our moon. That's close in celestial terms, but still a very safe distance for Earth.

Related: Just how many threatening asteroids are there? It's complicated.

The flyby event is the project's tribute to 2022's Asteroid Day, according to Virtual Telescope Project founder Gianluca Masi. Asteroid Day is an Asteroid Foundation annual promotion of space rocks and planetary defense research that takes place on June 30.

The space rock, first spotted in 2022, is at its longest dimension between 18 feet and 41 feet (5.5 meters and 12.5 meters). That's at least bus-sized, although the asteroid could range as large as a shipping container.

That size means that, technically speaking, 2022 NF is not classified as a "potentially hazardous asteroid" (PHA) by the metrics used by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

A poster advertising the 2022 NF asteroid flyby of July 6, 2022. (Image credit: Virtual Telescope Project)

While the asteroid will come well within the required 4.6 million miles (7.5 million km) of Earth to qualify as a PHA, its small size is well under the generally accepted 460 feet (140 meters) that also forms this designation. The size, however, is an approximation as usually we can only assess asteroids by their brightness, a proxy for size.

As a note, "potentially hazardous" is not meant to be a formal assessment of the likelihood or danger of an asteroid hitting the Earth, and how hazard is determined is complicated

The asteroid circles the sun about every six years, according to JPL's Small-Body Database, where you can look up any asteroid ever tracked by professional telescopes. You can also see 2022 NF on JPL's list of upcoming close asteroid approaches.

NASA and a network of partner telescopes regularly monitor the sky for small bodies like 2022 NF and have found no imminent threats to worry about, although they keep searching and working on planetary defense technologies as a precaution.

If you're looking for binoculars or a telescope to see the asteroid in the night sky, check out our guide for the best binocular deals and the best telescope deals now. If you need equipment to capture the moment, consider our guides for the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography to make sure you're ready for the next asteroid sighting.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace