A massive asteroid over a mile wide is expected to make a closer-than-normal trip past the Earth near the end of May, an approach so close that it could be spotted in the sky.
Asteroids fly past the Earth on a regular basis, but Asteroid 7335 (1989 JA) is bigger than many of them, measuring 1.1 miles (5,900 feet) across. For comparison, it is four times larger than the Empire State Building and more than twice as large as the Burj Khalifa, located in Saudi Arabia, and the tallest building on the planet.
On May 27, the mammoth asteroid will make its closest encounter with our planet since its discovery, but rest assured, it will safely pass by with no threat of impact.
An artist’s rendition of an asteroid flying past the Earth. Illustration by Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library/Corbis
Asteroid 7335 was discovered on May 1, 1989, and is one of 2,265 space rocks that NASA has labeled as a “potentially hazardous asteroid.”
To be considered potentially hazardous, an asteroid has to measure at least 460 feet across and come within 4.6 million miles of Earth’s orbit around the sun. This may sound close on a cosmic scale, but this distance is more than 19 times farther away than the moon is from the Earth.
Near the end of the month, Asteroid 7335 will come within 2.5 million miles of the Earth, which is just over 10 times farther away than the moon. Not only is this the closest that it will come to the planet since its discovery, but this is the closest it will come through at least 2194.
This flyby will be a good opportunity for scientists to take better observations of the asteroid, as well as a chance for amateur stargazers to spot it in the sky.
Stargazers hoping to catch a glimpse of the asteroid can find it in the southern sky near the constellation Hydra. However, a telescope will be needed to see the massive rock as it will not be bright enough to see with the naked eye.
Some skywatchers have found Asteroid 7335, and it will gradually become easier and easier to see in the nights leading up to May 27.