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Tomorrow an asteroid will fly close to Earth – this is how you can observe it

Tomorrow an asteroid will fly close to Earth – this is how you can observe it
Tomorrow an asteroid will fly close to Earth – this is how you can observe it

This weekend, a giant asteroid will pass our planet and you may be able to catch a glimpse of it.

The asteroid, designated 2024 MK, will pass closer to us on Saturday morning than the moon orbits the Earth and, with a diameter of 122 to 260 meters, is about the size of the Washington Monument.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), it will travel at an incredible speed of 9.37 km/s, or about 20,960 miles per hour, but it may be visible from Earth using a telescope or binoculars.

How to watch 2024 MK

The best chance for hopeful observers to spot the asteroid will be tonight with a backyard telescope or powerful binoculars. Clear skies are needed to spot the asteroid, and far from nighttime pollution it will be most visible to observers. The Sky Live is tracking the asteroid, so you can use the website to find out which part of the sky to look in. As of Friday, it has been in the constellation Centaurus.

However, the asteroid will be moving very quickly as it passes us, so it could be difficult to capture. It will also pass its closest point to Earth at 9:46 a.m. ET, meaning it will be farther away and therefore fainter during the darker hours of the night. In the United States, those in the southwest will have the best chance of seeing the asteroid. The Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii is a prime place to see it, as it will zoom past just before sunrise. The New York Times reported.

If you don’t live in an ideal location to observe 2024 MK, or don’t have a telescope or binoculars, the Virtual Telescope Project will live stream the asteroid’s passage through our skies.

Asteroid in the sky
Archive image of an asteroid flying past Earth. Stargazers may be able to catch a glimpse of the large asteroid 2024 MK on Saturday, which will fly by closer to Earth than the Moon.

ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

What is 2024 MK?

Despite its size, 2024 MK was only discovered on June 16 and has been classified as both a near-Earth object (NEO) and a potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA).

NEOs are defined as asteroids that come within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun (one astronomical unit is about 150 million kilometers, or the distance between the Sun and the Earth). A PHA is an asteroid that passes Earth at a distance of 7.4 million kilometers and has a diameter of at least 140 meters. PHAs are also so bright that they reach magnitude 22.0 or less in the sky.

2024 MK will pass us at a distance of 292,937 kilometers, much closer than the 382,937 kilometer long orbit of the Moon.

The probability of this asteroid hitting the Earth is extremely small, but if an asteroid of this size were to collide with the Earth, the consequences could be devastating.

“An asteroid with a diameter of 100 to 200 meters would cause a regional catastrophe that would wipe out a small country, but would also have global consequences for the world economy and globalization,” said Jay Tate, director of the British observatory Spaceguard Centre, previously. Newsweek.

2024 MK is about twice the size of the asteroid Tunguska, which exploded over Siberia in 1908 and razed 2,000 square kilometers of forest to the ground.

“The damage and impact will decrease with increasing distance from the impact site,” said Gretchen Benedix, an astrogeologist at Australia’s Curtin University. Newsweek by email. “Within 100 km of the impact (in rock), there will be radiation effects ranging from near zero to radiation burns; a range of seismic effects; airburst effects ranging from shattering glass windows to collapsing buildings; clouds of gas and dust being ejected into the atmosphere.”

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