An asteroid called 2014 RC will buzz the Earth on Sunday 7 Sept., missing our planet by just 25,000 miles. Although that distance seems large to people on Earth, this is considered a near-miss in astronomical terms.
Closest approach of 2014 RC to our home world will take place at 2:18 p.m. EDT, as the rocky body is above New Zealand. At that time, the speeding asteroid will be ten times closer to the Earth than the average distance to the Moon.
Astronomers estimate the asteroid has a diameter of roughly 60 feet. It was discovered on 31 Aug., while conducting research for the Catalina Sky Survey, by scientists working near Tucson, Arizona. The discovery was confirmed the following evening by astronomers using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, on the summit of Haleakal on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
Asteroid 2014 RC will be about 100 times too dim to be seen by amateur astronomers with the use of a telescope. If skywatchers know where to look, or use a computerized telescope mount to find the asteroid, the rocky body may be visible through a telescope with a diameter of 3.5 inches or greater.
"The asteroid will pass below Earth and the geosynchronous ring of communications and weather satellites orbiting about 22,000 miles... above our planet's surface. While this celestial object does not appear to pose any threat to Earth or satellites, its close approach creates a unique opportunity for researchers to observe and learn more about asteroids," Jet Propulsion Laboratory officials explained.
The Chelyabinsk meteor exploded above Russia on 15 Feb., injuring well over 1,000 people. The object blasted apart 18.4 miles above the city, with the force of 500 kilotons of TNT. The fireball was brighter than the Sun, even to observers 60 miles away from the epicenter. This object was roughly the same size as the newly-discovered body.
Astronomers are carefully studying asteroids and comets that pass close to our home world, and may pose a hazard from space. The Age of the Dinosaurs came to an end 65 million years ago, after an asteroid the size of Mount Everest collided with the Earth. Massive cooling caused by clouds of smoke and debris wiped out much of life on the planet.
Asteroid 2014 RC stands no chance of colliding with the Earth, and poses no danger to satellites during this current close encounter. However, astronomers are still calculating the future path of this newly-discovered near-Earth object (NEO). No immediate threats are predicted for the rocky body, but calculations are still being performed.