A Stadium-Sized Asteroid Approaching Nearer Our Moon

This week, an asteroid big enough to cause significant harm if it collided with Earth will make a rare pass by, approaching us closer than the moon. Luckily, it will pass our globe without incident.

However, during that process, it will get bright enough to be seen using binoculars, which is another unusual occurrence for a near-Earth object and among the brightest in recent memory. If an asteroid were to strike Earth (which some do from time to time), it would burn up entirely in the atmosphere since most asteroids that pass closer than the moon are so small that they can only be spotted by powerful telescopes or sky surveys.

The Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union has designated the space rock as asteroid 2024 MK. The European Space Agency (ESA) estimates that its diameter is between 130 and 280 meters (427 and 919 feet). It was found on June 16 and made public on June 19.

On June 29, it is expected to get as close as possible, passing within 184,000 miles. In contrast, the moon is typically located roughly 239,000 miles away from Earth.

According to the ESA, in 2024 MK will peak with a brightness of magnitude 8.5, which for seasoned skywatchers is equivalent to the Large Magellanic Cloud. When the asteroid gets closer to Earth, on Saturday, it should be seen with an amateur telescope from the southern hemisphere. As it moves away from Earth, it will become more visible from the northern half of the planet.

Although astronomers guarantee that there is no possibility of an impact, this is actually a very close miss for an object of this magnitude on the cosmic scale. Recall that the 2013 bolide explosion above Russia, which destroyed thousands of windows, was less than twentieth the size of the 2024 MK. Because of its size, this asteroid is classified as a “city-killer,” a term that is both colloquial and eerie. Put another way, it wouldn’t be pretty if this piece of cosmic debris collided with a city.

But once more, in this instance, there’s really nothing to be concerned about. The current position of 2024 MK is located in the constellation Centaurus. If you would like to attempt and identify the asteroid yourself using a backyard telescope or set of binoculars, you can utilize a tracking program like The Sky Live. As it gets closer, you can join the Virtual Telescope Project’s online watch party if you can’t get the equipment or can’t try to spot it yourself.