This weekend a new-found asteroid will zip by the Earth, and it will be on the Internet for all to see. Near-Earth Asteroid 2014 RC, nicknamed Pitbull, will be passing right above Earth on Sunday morning — about 20,000 miles above the surface. That’s only one-tenth of the distance from the surface of the Earth to the Moon!
It was nicknamed Pitbull, “due to its small size of up to 85 feet (26m) and scary demeanor” according to a Slooh Space Telescope press release.
Slooh Space Telescope will be transmitting images of the space rock from the Canary Islands Observatory, beginning on Saturday night at 10 p.m. EDT. The Helix nebula will also be in the view through the telescope.
At an estimated 88 feet in diameter, 2014 RC is roughly the same size as the 98-foot-wide 2012 DA14, which passed by in February of 2013. 2014 RC won’t come as close as 2012 DA14, which missed Earth by only 17,200 miles. At it’s closest, on Sunday, September 7th, 2014 RC will pass by 25,000 miles from the center of the Earth, over the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa. (From the center to the surface of the earth is about 4,000 miles, so that’s about 21,000 miles above the surface of the Earth.)
The asteroid is going to skim through the Earth’s atmosphere at the same level as many TV and weather satellites, which orbit at 22,000 miles above Earth.
Fortunately for all of humanity, there’s no chance whatsoever that 2014 RC will collide with Earth. If it did, the effects would be more dramatic than the meteor that exploded above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk last year. The Russian meteor measured in at about half the diameter of 2014 RC.
The observatory’s monitoring of the asteroid isn’t just fun and games, according to Slooh’s Paul Cox: “With a small number of observations made of 2014 RC, there is still uncertainty in its precise orbit. Slooh members will be tracking the asteroid as it approaches Earth, and will submit their observations to the Minor Planet Center to enable them to better define its orbit.”
As well as watching 2014 RC pass by in real time, viewers can ask questions of Slooh’s astronomers on Twitter, using the hashtag #sloohpitbull, during the broadcast. Watch the livestream here, starting at 10 p.m. EDT on Saturday, September 6. Here’s a full list of times to watch around the world.