Rare Asteroid Passing By Earth This Weekend

A rendering of a binary asteroid system                  European Space Agency

A rendering of a binary asteroid system European Space Agency

A "potentially hazardous" asteroid, so large it has its own moon, is hurtling towards Earth at some 48,000 kilometers per hour. It'll also be by far the largest object to come within about 20 lunar distances (4,647,790 miles or 7,479,894 kilometers) of us this year.

Thankfully, at it's closest approach tomorrow, the meteorite will be three million miles from Earth - about 13 times the distance to the moon.

A very big asteroid with its own little moon is going to zip past Earth tonight (May 25) - close enough that, with some preparation and a decent telescope, amateur astronomers may spot it blotting out the stars.

The space rock orbits the inner circles of the solar system on a trajectory similar to that of asteroid 1862 Apollo.

Next week, Asteroid HP will significantly cut this distance down to around 0.03149 astronomical units.

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The Las Cumbres Observatory explains the appearance of the traveling system, saying that the main asteroid in the arrangement is slightly flattened at the poles and has a chain of mountains at its equator, surrounding the whole space rock.

After its close approach this weekend, the next projected flyby of Earth from 1999 KW4 is set for May 25, 2036. This close approach comes in at an estimated 3.2 million miles from Earth.

During its closest approach the asteroid will have more favorable viewing conditions in the southern hemisphere before it potentially becomes more visible in the northern by May 27. The Earth itself is similarly shaped, though not as noticeably as the primary body of 1999 KW4. Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Minor Planet Center has labeled the space rock as being a possible unpredictable object, but scientists assure us that we have nothing to be afraid of.

NASA said that its Planetary Defense Coordination Office will continue to closely monitor the asteroids. Meanwhile, there will be two visitors to Earth from space.

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