According to NASA, the biggest asteroid of the year, asteroid 7335 (1989 JA), will sail past Earth on Friday, May 27. This rocky space rock is large enough to be a continent destroyer. Or, to put it in animal terms that we can all comprehend, 405-782 mature female Komodo dragons (end to end) broad. The size of an asteroid is calculated using its albedo (how much light it reflects) and the reflective qualities of its surface, which is why estimates might differ. 1989 JA is estimated to be 932 meters (0.57 miles) by the European Space Agency, and 1.8 kilometers by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Objects (1. 1 miles).
However, they both believe that the asteroid is on the list of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects since it is close to our planet, is rather large, and is approaching at a speed of 20 times that of a speeding bullet. However, we won’t have to worry about it this week since it will pass us by at a distance of almost 4 million kilometers (2.5 million miles), or ten times the distance between us and the Moon. The asteroid, which is approaching at a speed of 76,000 km/h (47,200 mph), has been visible from both hemispheres with a strong telescope, but its closest approach on May 27 will favor the southern sky.
It has already been tracked by a few folks. Unistellar, a telescope manufacturer, is undertaking a citizen science effort called Planetary Defense, in which individuals have used their telescopes to follow the asteroid as it approaches our planet. They’ve had 40 observations from 24 people in New Zealand, the United States, Canada, France, Austria, and Italy thus far. As the asteroid approaches Earth’s closest point, further sightings are being made in Australia, the Netherlands, and other European nations. Based on these observations, they expect to figure out how rapidly the asteroid is revolving.
Citizen scientist Ethan Teng, who is part of Unistellar’s Planetary Defense campaign, told IFLScience, “It’s been extremely thrilling to collaborate with scientists and other enthusiasts like myself from all around the world to help safeguard our planet, enhance our understanding of exoplanets, and more.” Worry not if you don’t have a telescope or the weather in your area prevents you from seeing it for yourself (*shakes fist at British weather*). The Virtual Telescope Project and Telescope Live offer two live feeds showing the asteroid passing past us on May 26 at 7 p.m. ET and May 27 at 9 a.m. ET, respectively.