4 Vesta, an asteroid comparable to the size of Arizona, is zooming close to Earth, so near that it will be visible to the naked eye.
The asteroid has an estimated size of about 326 miles in diameter and according to NASA is the second most massive body in the main asteroid belt. The 4 Vesta asteroid accounts for almost 9 percent of the total mass of all asteroids combined. Hence, it is classified as a protoplanet which means it is believed to be in the process of becoming an actual planet.
When To Spot 4 Vesta
4 Vesta will brightly appear in the nighttime sky as it zooms closer to Earth at a distance of about 106 million miles from Earth. This distance is the closest the asteroid has gotten near Earth in the last 20 years. The next time it will fly by in close proximity to Earth will be sometime after 2040.
4 Vesta currently appears near the constellation Sagittarius. It is also next to Mars and Saturn. The asteroid has actually begun traversing into its current position since June 19. After June 28, it will be moving closer to the constellation Ophiuchus. People in both the northern and southern hemispheres have only until July 16 or 17 to see the massive asteroid bright in the sky.
Robert Massey, from the Royal Astronomical Society, assured stargazers that 4 Vesta will indeed be visible to the naked eye. Nevertheless, he recommended using binoculars or telescopes for a more satisfying view of the asteroid.
Massive 4 Vesta Asteroid Has Unique Features
4 Vesta, which was discovered in 1807, has an almost spherical shape and is almost classified as a dwarf planet. In fact, it underwent a process identical to the planetary formation to that of Earth. Unlike other known asteroids, Vesta formed early, about 1 to 2 million years after the sun was born. It has separated into crust, mantle, and core just like how Earth did.
Scientists estimated that there were about 300 dark asteroids with diameters ranging from 0.6 to 6 miles that hit Vesta within the last 3.5 billion years. The collision wrapped Vesta in a shroud of particles about 3 to 7 feet thick.
4 Vesta also has extensive terrain comprised of valley channels or troughs. The largest is even bigger than the Grand Canyon.
NASA scientists believed that Vesta is the source of a group of meteorites that aided them in fully understanding the concept of "Lunar Cataclysm." This hypothesis states that the repositioning of giant planets that take place some billions of years ago destabilized the orbits of asteroids in the early asteroid belt. The destabilized asteroids ended up bombarding the solar system.