Getty Images

Time to take your eight-inch telescope out of storage. 

Melanie Lieberman
February 09, 2018

On Friday evening, an asteroid will pass close to Earth. Named Asteroid 2018 CB, the hunk of space rock will pass by at a distance of 39,000 miles — five times closer than the moon, according to Astronomy.com.

The asteroid is between 550 and 130 feet in length, making it significantly larger than most of the asteroids that zip by our planet.

“Asteroids this size do not often approach this close to our planet — maybe only once or twice a year,” said Paul Chodas, the manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Given its size and proximity to Earth, it will in fact be possible to watch the asteroid as it flies past Earth. Here’s how to see this celestial event.

What time is the asteroid passing Earth today?

The asteroid passing near Earth today will zip by around 5:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. According to Sky & Telescope, Asteroid 2018 CB is close enough to spot with an eight-inch telescope, though the timing isn’t great. The sun sets just before 5:30 p.m. on Friday, meaning it will still be light out when the asteroid zooms by. As it crosses the Americas, it will only travel farther into the sunlight.

Stargazers based in Europe or Africa will have a better chance of viewing the asteroid in a telescope as it blazes across the night sky.

How to watch the asteroid live

If you’re not in a great spot to observe the asteroid — or you can’t locate your handy eight-inch telescope — you can watch the asteroid pass Earth today on a live stream.

Several live streams will let you follow the asteroid as if you were watching through a powerful telescope, including the Virtual Telescope Project. The live stream will begin at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

What is an asteroid?

Both asteroids and meteoroids are essentially rocky masses orbiting around the sun —meteoroids are just significantly smaller.

Asteroid 2018 CB, though quite close, is not classified as a PHA (a “potentially hazardous asteroid”). For asteroids to be considered a threat, they must be at least 328 feet in diameter, and must approach within 4.6 million miles, according to Sky & Telescope.

You May Like