The asteroid, named (52768) 1998 O2, will come within 3.9 million miles (6.29 million km) of Earth at its closest – that is about 16 times farther than the Moon is. Asteroid OR2 is one of many so-called near-Earth objects (NEOs) that orbit the Sun within 1.3 astronomical units (au) or 120.8 million miles (194.4 million km). Dozens of asteroids make close approaches each month and NASA tracks their orbits if they come within five million miles of Earth.
However, due to its sheer size, asteroid OR2 will be bright to be seen through small telescopes.
NASA’s Asteroid Watch team tweeted: “Have you been hearing about asteroid 1998 OR2’s close approach on April 29?
“Rest assured that this asteroid will safely pass Earth by 3.9 million miles/6.2 million km.
“Have other questions about #asteroids and #planetarydefense? Ask them using #askNASA!”
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How to see the Asteroid OR2 tonight?
Although the space rock will be closest to Earth early on Wednesday, April 29, you should already be able to spot it tonight.
Weather permitting, Dr Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project told Express.co.uk OR2 will be visible to small telescopes.
Dr Masi will also track the asteroid live online tonight.
Click here to watch the stream, courtesy of the Virtual Telescope.
With a bit of luck and dark enough skies, you might even be able to see the asteroid through a pair of strong binoculars.
That makes it pretty significant but it’s passing pretty far away
Paul Chodas, NASA
Dr Masi said: “These days around the close approach, 1998 OR2 can be seen through a modest telescope, with a diameter of 120mm to 150mm.
“Under dark skies, even a binocular could help.
“Of course, you need to know where to look and the JPL and the Minor Planet Center’s website can be useful for that.”
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When viewed from Earth, Asteroid OR2 will appear to pass above the constellation Hydra and below Leo.
The asteroid will move relatively slowly, passing in front of the stars.
You might even mistake the asteroid for a slow-moving star tonight.
Astronomer Eddie Irizarry said: “You will want to note the star field, and watch for the object that moves over a period of about 10 to 15 minutes. Yes, that’ll be the space rock.”
Despite the asteroid appearing to slog through space, NASA estimates it is travelling at speeds of about 19,461mph (31,320kph).
CNEOS director Paul Chodas said: “This is an asteroid that we’ve been tracking for over 20 years and we’ve been predicting this close approach for a long time.
“It’s one of the larger near-Earth asteroids and so it’s kind of notable.
“It’s around two to three kilometres in diameter, maybe one-and-half to two miles across.
“So that makes it pretty significant but it’s passing pretty far away.”
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