A just-discovered asteroid the size of a city block buzzed past Earth Thursday night (June 14th). The new asteroid is named 2012 LZ1.
The newly discovered asteroid is 1650-feet wide and passed just within 3.3 million miles — that’s about 14 times the distance of the Earth and Moon. The closest approach was around 8 p.m. EDT Thursday night.
The Slooh Space Camera, which is an online observatory site, streamed the passing of the asteroid live online, using a telescope located in the Canary Islands off Africa’s west coast.
In the video, the asteroid appears as an oblong object.
The asteroid is moving in a somewhat similar plane and speed as the Earth, so it will be trackable by most large telescopes for the next week or so.
Since it’s such a recent discovery, scientists haven’t finished taking the asteroid’s measurements yet. It was just discovered on June 10th and 11th using a telescope at Siding Spring Observatory, in the Australian state of New South Wales.
Because of 2012 LZ1’s size, it is potentially dangerous to the Earth. But it doesn’t appear to be a threat anytime soon.
“This particular one has no impact possibilities in the foreseeable future,” said Rob McNaught, the discoverer. “But researchers will continue to watch 2012 LZ1 over the next few days, to try to map its motions out further into the future.”
Just last November, another large asteroid, 2005 YU55, came within 201,700 miles (324,600 km) of the Earth — that’s less than the distance between the Earth and Moon. 2005 YU55 was, like 2012 LZ1, also the size of a city block. Before 2005 YU55, the last time such a large asteroid is known to have come that close was 1976.
“We will most certainly find more as NASA, along with other space agencies and astronomers, are on a constant look-out,” said Bob Berman, an astronomy magazine columnist.
The asteroid that is thought to have contributed to the extinction of some dinosaur species appears to have been around 6 miles wide or 10 km, as compared to the 500 meters of 2012 LZ1.
Image Credits: William Merline SWRI/W.M. Keck Observatory, Remanzacco Observatory