How to Watch an Asteroid Larger Than Three Boeing 737s Pass Earth Tonight
A massive near-Earth asteroid named 2010 WC9 is scheduled to zoom past Earth Tuesday evening. It's expected to safely pass us at a staggering speed of more than 28,600 miles per hour.
Though estimates vary, the asteroid is thought to be between 197 and 430 feet long (for context, that’s somewhere between the length of a single Airbus A330 and three Boeing 737-MAX 10s).
Few asteroids of this size have ever been observed passing this close to Earth, according to Earthsky.org.
Despite its magnitude and relative proximity to Earth (some 126,419 miles), the asteroid will not be visible to the unaided eye. But NASA representatives say amateur astronomers can easily watch the space rock pass Earth with an eight-inch telescope.
“At closest approach,” David C. Agle, a media relations specialist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory told TPG, “the asteroid will be ‘under’ our planet — in particular, over the coast of Antarctica, on the southern edge of the Indian Ocean."
Fortunately, you don’t need to be on an icebreaker cruise to witness the rare phenomenon (this particular asteroid hasn't come this close to our planet in nearly 300 years).
"A good observing spot," Agle pointed out, "would be Cape Town, South Africa.”
Train your telescope at the sky around 6:05pm EST, or just past midnight on the coast of Africa, for your best chance at observing the asteroid.
Don’t have your telescope handy? Northholt Branch Observatories in the UK caught a live stream of the asteroid as it passed over London after midnight Tuesday morning.