Asteroid 2004 BL86 set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars

The 900m-long rock will come to within 1.2 million kilometres of Earth

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The Independent Online

An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth on Monday night that it will be visible with binoculars.

The 900m-long rock, named 2004 BL86, will come to within 1.2 million kilometres of Earth - about three times further away than the moon - in the closest fly-by until 2027.

Don Yeomans, of Nasa’s Near-Earth Object Program, said: “While it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it's a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more.

“I may grab my favorite binoculars and give it a shot myself. Asteroids are something special. Not only did asteroids provide Earth with the building blocks of life and much of its water, but in the future, they will become valuable resources for mineral ores and other vital natural resources. They will also become the fueling stops for humanity as we continue to explore our solar system. There is something about asteroids that makes me want to look up.”


Nasa published star charts showing the path of the asteroid.

It plans to take “detailed images” of the object which it is hoped will shed some light on its make-up.

Nasa radar astronomer Lance Benner said: “At present, we know almost nothing about the asteroid, so there are bound to be surprises.”

A telescope at the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico, discovered 2004 BL86 in January 2004.