Witness Asteroid 2002 AM31 As It Zips By Earth On Sunday July 22nd
This weekend Space buffs are in for a special treat - On Sunday, July 22nd 2012, an asteroid the size of a city block will zip past earth in its closest approach since it was discovered in 2002. Estimated to be between 2,000 to 4,500 feet wide, the Asteroid 2002 AM31 will get within 4.65 million miles or about 14 times the moon's distance from Earth.
For all you apprehensive folks, this means that the Space rock will be too far to hit us but close enough so that it can be seen through powerful telescopes as it makes its way across. This exciting Space event will be aired live from two locations at different times tomorrow - The first live show aired from the Canary Islands, off the West Coast of Africa, will begin at 4.30pm Pacific (7.30pm Eastern) time. The second live stream will be from powerful telescopes based out of Arizona and begin at 8.00pm Pacific (11.00pm Eastern) time. Both events can be viewed from the comfort of your home at Slooh Space Camera.
Asteroids are rocky airless solar bodies orbiting our Sun. Too small to be called planets they are all clustered around in main asteroid belt - a giant doughnut shaped ring that sits around the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
While Asteroid 2002 AM31 is making headlines because of its size and proximity, NASA scientists say that with about 9,000 of them whizzing past our planet at any given moment, asteroid passing is a common occurrence. Having said that it is not something they take lightly. That's because while the smaller asteroids disintegrate as they enter the earth's atmosphere and fall on the ground as meteorites, the larger ones that get to earth, do cause significant damage.
The last time it happened was in 1908, when an asteroid believed to be 130 feet wide came hurtling down and exploded above Siberia's Podkamennaya Tunguska River, flattening almost 770 square miles (2,000 square km) of forest. Fortunately, only one percent of the asteroids fall into the really large category and, they do not collide with our planet too often. Also, thanks to the advances in science and technology, experts will be able to predict if one is getting uncomfortably close to earth and take appropriate precautions - So for now, all of you can kick back and just enjoy the upcoming free celestial show.
Resources: Space.com, wired.com, huffingtonpost.com,Space.com.