You can watch an asteroid pass by Earth tonight

The large asteroid has even been nicknamed "The Rock" after Moana star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
asteroid 20170406-16 Behold, the path of The Rock over the next two days. (NASA/JPL-CalTech)


Today, Wednesday, April 19, an asteroid that's about 650 metres (2,000 feet) long will start passing by Earth. The good news? There is no chance it will hit the planet. The better news? It will be close enough to see... with a little help.

If you have a small optical telescope, you can view the asteroid in the night sky yourself. It should be visible April 19 and 20, before its orbit path takes it further from Earth. If you can't do that, you can also track it live on this website here.

From "potentially dangerous" to perfectly safe

And what should we call this zippy space rock? For a while, it was known as "Potentially Hazardous Asteroid 2014 JO25", which is not only a mouthful, it's also kind of scary. But remember, this thing isn't coming anywhere near Earth! In fact, the closest that it will get is 1.8 million kilometres (1.1 million miles) away (that's about five times the distance from here to the Moon).

Lots of asteroids pass our planet at about the same distance all the time. So why is this a big deal? Because it is literally a BIG deal—this asteroid is much larger than the usual visitors that we receive. This is why it has been given a new nickname: The Rock, after one of Earth's biggest celebrities. You know... this guy!

Enjoy it while you can

In addition to being large and in charge, this asteroid should also be visible due to its highly reflective surface. Scientists at NASA estimate that its surface is about twice as reflective as the Moon. (And that Moon can get pretty bright, don't you know!)

Of course if you're a bit busy the next couple of nights and not sure that you can make time to see this interstellar sight... well, we'd love to say that you'll get another chance, but this is it! The next time The Rock is due to return to Earth? Around the year 2600.

And isn't that just like a big movie star? Thinking it's so important that you'll drop everything to see it when it makes an appearance? It's okay, we can't help ourselves either.

Have a look at its projected path below!


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