How To Watch Giant Asteroid 2012 LZ1 Flyby Online

By Amir Khan on June 14, 2012 11:52 AM EDT

Asteroid
This composite image shows the comparative sizes of eight asteroids. (Photo: NASA)

Astronomers pointing their telescopes at the night sky on Thursday, June 14 have the opportunity to see a giant asteroid the size of a city block pass close to Earth. The near-Earth asteroid, named 2012 LZ1, is approximately 1,600 feet wide and will come within 3 million miles of Earth.

The asteroid was discovered on Sunday night by astronomers in Australia.Experts stress that there is no chance that the asteroid collides with the planet, but said the object is close enough that it offers a prime viewing opportunity.

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Astronomers in the Canary Islands will capture the event on camera and stream it starting at 8:00 p.m. EDT Thursday (0000 GMT Friday), the Asteroid's closest approach, on the Slooh Space Camera website,  found here: http://events.slooh.com/.

Because the asteroid is coming so close to Earth, it qualifies as a potentially hazardous asteroid.

Congress mandated the Spaceguard Survey 1998. The Spaceguard Survey required 90 percent of near earth objects over 1 km in diameter, which qualify as potentially hazardous, to be found by 2008. As of 2011, researchers found 911 NEO's through the Spaceguard program and expect 70 more objects will be found, according to NASA.

NASA tracks every NEO that has a chance of colliding with Earth in the next 100 years. The asteroid 2012 DA14 currently has the greatest chance of impacting Earth, possibly crashing down on Feb. 16, 2020, according to NASA. The chance of it hitting, however, is very slim.

The Catalina Sky Survey, part of the Spaceguard Survey, uses two telescopes to take images of a selected part of the sky roughly 10 minutes apart. A computer program then scrutinizes the images to identify objects moving in a straight line. If the object qualifies as a near-Earth object (NEO), an object whose trajectory will bring it close to Earth, the survey reports it to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The survey discovered 586 near-Earth asteroids in 2011, 65 percent of all NEOs discovered according to Space.com.

"NASA has recognized that over the last seven years, our program has constantly strived to improve its performance, and has collaborated with others to find new ways to exploit the nearly 1,000 images we take every night with our two telescopes in the mountains north of Tucson," Edward Beshore, principal investigator of the Catalina Sky Survey, said in a statement. "I think NASA recognizes the CSS as a valuable service to, well, humanity."

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