Asteroid 2004 BL86 will come within about 745,000 miles of Earth on Monday. However, there is nothing to worry as that’s about three times the distance between Earth and the moon.
Across the skies in United States, the closest moment of the pass will come just after 11am ET, when BL86 will be visible in the sky between Jupiter and the constellation Gemini. From 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday evening, January 26th, until about 1 a.m. EST on the 27th and during this time 2004 BL86 will be heading northward through the dim constellation Cancer. It skims the eastern edge of a star cluster called the Beehive (or Messier 44) from about midnight to 12:30 a.m. EST.
Asteroid 2004 BL86, is a 1,800-feet-wide rock. Most near-Earth asteroids have diameters no larger than 50 to 100 feet. The 2004 BL86 will brighten rapidly as it approaches Earth and it will become about 9th magnitude for several hours as it passes closest to us. But it will still be too faint to be seen by the naked eye and it is also beyond the reach of most binoculars. However, this object should be bright enough to follow with a 4-inch-diameter telescope as it moves among the stars.
NASA will use radar and microwave radiation to take snapshots of the object as it passes Earth, using the Deep Space Network array in Goldstone, California as well as the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Lance Benner, principal investigator for the Goldstone radar observations of the asteroid, said, “Astronomers have this brilliant opportunity to gather data at high resolution comparable to what is usually gathered by a spacecraft flyby. Not only this, microwave radar images are better than what are produced by most ground-based telescopes. When we get our radar data back the day after the flyby, we will have the first detailed images. At present, we know almost nothing about the asteroid, so there are bound to be surprises.”
Observers in the America, Europe, and Africa will have the best view for seeing this interloper during its brightest time.