It’s not the end of times, but astronomers say an asteroid—known as 2004 BL86, and estimated to be half a kilometer wide—will fly by Earth on Jan. 26. While it poses no immediate threat to our existence, scientists are paying close attention because it’ll be the closest approach of a “significantly-sized” asteroid until the year 2027. By then, NASA is hoping we can actually capture one to observe more closely.
“When we get our radar data back the day after the flyby, we will have the first detailed images,” said radar astronomer Lance Benner of NASA’s JPL. “At present, we know almost nothing about the asteroid, so there are bound to be surprises.”
Stargazers currently have their sights set on a ton of near-Earth objects, and the imminent pass should give scientists a really good opportunity to observe and report. BL86 shouldn’t get any closer than 3 Earth-moon distances, or about 745,000 miles from where you and I sit right now. It will, however, be close enough for astronomers to observe using high-powered telescopes and take precise measurements.
In fact, depending on conditions, everyday people might be able to see BL86 with a powerful pair of binoculars. You won’t have to duck, but just know that a large asteroid will whiz by in the coming days.