Monster asteroid to whiz by Earth

Earth gets a close encounter Monday evening as an asteroid as big as three football fields whizzes by at 27,000 mph.

The asteroid isn't a threat — it will miss the Earth by 2 million miles. Dubbed 2000 EM26, it's about 885 feet in diameter.

Earthlings can watch the fly-by on beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

Slooh is a robotic telescope service that is viewable online.

Asteroid 2000 EM26's close pass will be watched by Slooh's robotic telescope on Mount Teide in the Canary Islands.

The asteroid itself is "a little fainter than Pluto" and will show up as a white dot moving against the background of the stars, says Slooh astronomer Bob Berman.

"Of course, that's if we can find it," he said.

Which is what he finds interesting about this particular asteroid. It was first discovered in 2000 but when astronomers looked for it in 2006 and 2009 they couldn't find it.

"The real story is this—here you have a potentially hazardous asteroid, but where the heck is it? Has its orbit been perturbed by a companion body or by passing too close to the sun?" Berman said.

"If we can't even keep track of the ones we know about – I don't even have to finish that sentence," he said.

"It might wake people up to the fact that maybe it's a good idea to spend a little more of our budget in looking for these things," Berman said.

The site will show a 45 minute live stream of the asteroid beginning at 9 p.m. ET. It will include both live images of 2000 EM26 as well as time lapse images from other recent near-Earth asteroids.

The live stream will be accompanied by discussions led by Berman and Mark Boslough, an expert on planetary impacts. Viewers will be interacting with the astronomers via the Twitter hashtag #asteroid.

Asteroids are small rocky planetoids that revolve around the sun but are too small to be considered planets.

2000 EM26 was discovered March 5, 2000. You can see a diagram of its orbit from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory here.

The asteroid's passage comes a year and two days after an asteroid ripped through the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia. That asteroid damaged thousands of buildings and was felt over a very wide area. It was about 65 feet across.

"We've got some amazing footage from Chelyabinsk" of the meteor that roared over Russia on Feb. 15 of last year. It will be shown during the 2000 EM26 live stream. "I hadn't seen it until two hours ago and it's cool," Berman said.


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