Earthlings, get ready to experience another close shave, as a “potentially hazardous asteroid” of enormous size (so big it’s earned the nickname ‘The Beast’) is due to fly past Earth (hopefully without an incident) tonight.
Discovered on April 23 by Nasa’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (Wise), the Near Earth-Asteroid 2014 HQ124 (a.k.a. The Beast) will whizz past us at an approximate speed of 14km per second, or about 50,400kmph.
According to Slooh, the giant asteroid has an estimated diameter of up to three Nimitz-class aircraft carriers (400m - 900m or .25 miles - .56 miles) and will come breathtakingly close (astronomically speaking) to the Earth, whizzing past us at a troublesome distance of (just) three lunar distances away.
The Beast has an estimated diameter of more than 2,100 feet (650m), and it is expected to shine really brightly in the night sky tonight. Unfortunately, however, the magnitude +13.7 brightness can be spotted only through high-powered telescopes in the Southern hemisphere.
The good news, though, is that Slooh will cover The Beast live tonight, June 5, starting at 10:30pm UAE time. The event will be broadcast live from Australia, featuring time lapse imagery from Slooh’s newly renovated robotic observatory in Chile.
In addition, there will be ‘live’ commentary and discussions by expert astronomers about planetary impacts and global catastrophes.
Even as the Beast asteroid tonight is expected to pass by at a very safe distance of 1.15 million kilometres (3 Lunar Distances) away, its size is much bigger than the Chelyabinsk asteroid, which exploded over Russia on February 15, 2013. Read: Meteorites hit Russia... more than 1,000 hurt
That meteor exploded with a blinding flash above central Russia, setting off a shockwave that shattered windows and hurt almost 1,000 people in an event unprecedented in modern times.
The 10-tonnes meteor streaked across the sky in the Urals region just as the world braced for a close encounter with a large asteroid that left some Russian officials calling for the creation of a global system of space object defence.
In April this year, Nasa’s Wise and Spitzer Space Telescope discovered what appears to be the coldest “brown dwarf” known – a dim, star-like body that surprisingly is as frosty as Earth’s North Pole.
Images from the space telescopes also pinpointed the object’s distance to 7.2 light-years away, earning it the title for fourth closest system to our sun. The closest system, a trio of stars, is Alpha Centauri, at about 4 light-years away.
Wise it is said was able to spot the rare object because it surveyed the entire sky twice in infrared light, observing some areas up to three times. Cool objects like brown dwarfs can be invisible when viewed by visible-light telescopes, but their thermal glow – even if feeble – stands out in infrared light.
In addition, the closer a body, the more it appears to move in images taken months apart. Airplanes are a good example of this effect: a closer, low-flying plane will appear to fly overhead more rapidly than a high-flying one.