Giant asteroid hurtles towards Earth - see it from your backyard

The asteroid will be visible through a telescope
The asteroid will be visible through a telescope

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A GIANT asteroid is hurtling towards Earth – and stargazers in the Portsmouth area should be able to see it from their own backyard.

The huge rock, called 2004 BL86 by astronomers, will sweep safely past Earth on January 26.

A spokesman for Nasa said: ‘It will be the closest asteroid 2004 BL86 will get to Earth for at least the next 200 years.

‘And 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.’

Amateur astronomers with small telescopes and strong binoculars should be able to see the asteroid from the evening of January 26 into the morning of January 27.

The asteroid, which is about a third of a mile wide, will whizz past in front of the constellations Hydra, Cancer and Leo.

It will pass about 745,000 miles from the Earth’s surface. For comparison, the moon is about 240,000 miles from Earth.

Graham Bryant, chairman of the Hampshire Astronomical Group, based in Clanfield, said it will be an exciting moment for keen astronomers.

‘Weather permitting, we will be watching it,’ he said. ‘We have certainly got some members who are into asteroids, so it will push their buttons.’

Mr Bryant said members of the public will need a telescope if they wish to watch the asteroid whizz by.

He added: ‘It is quite difficult to see it. Anyone with a decent telescope will be able to see the asteroid.

‘When it is close by, it will nip by fairly quickly, so it will be noticeable. It will look like a star moving across the night sky.’

The flyby is notable because 2004 BL86 will be the closest of any known space rock this large until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past Earth in 2027.