- Written by Sophie
An asteroid 8 times the length of our rocket tower will fly by Earth this weekend, but fear not, as it will pass well beyond the orbit of the moon.
This event will however give you the opportunity to get 'remotely up close and personal' with a huge space rock through an online webcast.
With an orbital period of 2.2 years, this asteroid is a fairly regular visitor. However asteroid 2002 AM31 will make its closest pass to the Earth since its first sighting in 2002 on Sunday 22nd July, zipping by at a range of 5.2 million kilometres (or 13.5 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon). This means that it has no chance of hitting us on this pass. It is however being closely monitored for the future and is classed as a PHO or Potentially Hazardous Object.
So how can you get a closer look? Sadly it is not large enough to view with standard amateur telescopes. Well, scientists at the SLOOH (a pun on the word slew – just with more ooh!) sky camera project will be tracking this asteroid and sharing live real time imagery and analysis through their webcast at 11.30pm on Sunday evening. Their two telescopes are situated high up on a volcano called Teide in Tenereife. Being so far away from sources of light pollution, and higher up in our light scattering atmosphere, distortion is at a minimum and they are able to obtain beautifully clear real time images of space objects.
So tune in to Slooh at 11.30 on Sunday 22nd July for a rare chance to catch a glimpse of an asteroid.