An asteroid stretching 650 metres (2,000 feet) across is on track to whoosh past Earth on Wednesday at a safe but uncomfortably close distance, according to astronomers.
“Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid this size,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.
Dubbed 2014-JO25, the asteroid will come within 1.8 million kilometres (1.1 million miles) from Earth which is five times less than the distance to the Moon. It will pass closest to Earth after having looped around the Sun.
Smaller asteroids whizz by Earth several times a week. But the last time one at least this size came as close was in 2004 when Toutatis, five kilometres (3.1 miles) across, passed within four lunar distances.
The next scheduled close encounter with a big rock will not happen before 2027 when the 800 metre (half-mile) wide asteroid 199-AN10 will fly by at just one lunar distance (about 380,000 km or 236,000 miles).
The last time 2014-JO25 was in our neighbourhood was 400 years ago and its next brush with will not happen before 2600. “Astronomers plan to observe it with telescopes around the world to learn as much about it as possible,” the US space agency said.
Besides it size and trajectory, its surface is twice more reflective than the Moon. It should be visible from small optical telescope for one or two nights before it will be out of range.