On April 19, 2017, Asteroid 2014 JO25 will zoom by our planet at a distance of approximately 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) or about 4.6 times the distance from the Earth to the moon. While asteroids flying by is a relatively common occurrence, this particular fly by has drawn significant attention because it’s such a massive rock — NASA’s estimate based on measurements taken by NEOWISE space probe is around 2,000 feet (650 meters) or roughly the length of six football fields — and it’s going to pass by really close.
The last time an asteroid of comparable size passing within almost the same distance was 13 years ago, we are talking about asteroid Toutatis which flew by in September 2004. Toutatis measures 3.1 miles (about 5 kilometers) and approached within about four times the distance from the Earth to the moon.
The next closest pass by will not happen for at least another decade when half-mile wide (800 meters) Asteroid 1999 AN10 will approach our planet at about one lunar distance. That’s obviously going to be a pretty close one, so needless to say, it’s a good thing this particular asteroid isn’t as enormous.
Should we be worried that we’re about to face the same kind of extinction event that Harry Stamper and his crew of deep-sea oil drillers helped stop in that 1998 Michael Bay movie?
Asteroid 2014 JO25 happens to be 60 times bigger than the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013 and injured more than 1,000 people as it blew up in the atmosphere. Imagine what kind of destruction Asteroid 2014 JO25 can cause.
As close as its approach will be, however, NASA assures us there’s no chance of a collision and that the asteroid will simply fly safely past Earth. Or maybe that’s what they want us to think so we won’t panic and throw the world into chaos as they implement their bold plan to intercept this massive rock hurling through space? We certainly hope not.
Asteroid 2014 JO25 was discovered by astronomers in May 2014 (now you know why it’s named as such) by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona. And this will be its closest encounter with Earth for the last 4 centuries.
It will make its approach from the direction of the sun and is expected to become visible in the night sky after April 19. At its brightest (about magnitude 11), the asteroid will be visible for one to two nights to small telescopes, after which it will gradually fade as it moves farther away from the Earth.
As huge as it is, that doesn’t mean you can see it on your own. With its reflective surface, though, you can probably see it with a telescope, if you know where to look. Or, you can just watch it online with the rest of the world.