'We're Orbiting in a Cosmic Shooting Gallery': Asteroid Will Just Miss Earth
A 60-foot asteroid that was discovered just several days ago will zip by Earth at close range Sunday afternoon.
NASA has said the asteroid does not pose a threat to Earth when it flies by at 2:18 p.m. EDT on Sunday.
Former NASA astronaut Tom Jones joined Uma Pemmaraju on America's News Headquarters today and said there are about one million asteroids traveling around the inner solar system.
"This one's going to miss us safely by about 20-25,000 miles," Jones said, adding that is roughly one-tenth of the distance from the Earth to the moon.
According to Jones, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere and own a sizeable amateur telescope, you should be able to catch a glimpse of the asteroid as it passes by. The rest of us are out of luck.
Jones said that while this asteroid does not pose a danger to Earth, it is a reminder that we've only discovered roughly 11,000 of the one million asteroids out there.
"I think it's great to know that we're in a very interesting part of the solar system," Jones said. "We're really orbiting in a cosmic shooting gallery, and it's a good thing that space agencies of the world are slowly coming together to search together and then mount a deflection mission if one was necessary."
The asteroid 2014 RC will safely buzz Earth at 2:18 p.m. EDT on Sunday. At that time, the asteroid will pass over New Zealand and fly just inside the orbits of the geosynchronous communications and weather satellites orbiting Earth about 22,000 miles above the planet's surface, according to a NASA statement. During its close pass, 2014 RC will be about 21,126 miles from Earth's surface. That's about 10 times closer to the Earth than the moon.
"Asteroid 2014 RC was initially discovered on the night of August 31 by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, and independently detected the next night by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, located on the summit of Haleakal? on Maui, Hawaii," NASA officials said in a statement. [See images of potentially dangerous asteroids]
The asteroid will be very dim when it passes by Earth. Observers on the ground won't be able to catch sight of it with the naked eye, but, weather permitting, intrepid amateur astronomers should be able to catch a glimpse of the fast-moving space rock through telescopes, according to NASA.
You can also watch two webcasts featuring the asteroid flyby this weekend. The Slooh Community Observatory — an online organization that hosts live broadcast of celestial events — will begin their asteroid webcast on Sept. 6 at 10 p.m. EDT. The Virtual Telescope Project will also host a webcast featuring live images of the asteroid on Sept. 6 starting at 6 p.m. EDT.
At its close approach, the 60-foot asteroid will fly about 25,000 miles from the center of Earth. The average radius of the Earth (the distance from the center of the planet to its surface) is about 3,959 miles.
The speedy asteroid isn't a threat to satellites orbiting Earth, and the space rock could even give scientists a special opportunity to learn more about asteroids because it will be so close to the planet, according to NASA.
NASA officials have also mapped out 2014 RC's future orbits to see whether the near-Earth object might pose a threat to the planet in the future.
"While 2014 RC will not impact Earth, its orbit will bring it back to our planet's neighborhood in the future," NASA officials said in the same statement. "The asteroid's future motion will be closely monitored, but no future threatening Earth encounters have been identified."
Scientists have found more than 10,000 near-Earth objects in the solar system.
Watch the clip above.