Asteroid flyby: The mountain-sized Asteroid OR2 will pass Earth next week – How to watch

The asteroid is circling the Sun on an orbit that will bring it within a “close” distance to Earth. Named by astronomers Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2, the space rock measures up to 2.5 miles (4.1km) across.  According to astrophysicist Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, the asteroid will be visible to telescopes towards the end of April.

The astronomer believes the asteroid will be bright enough for small telescopes to spot it.

Dr Masi will track the asteroid on the night of April 28 and shares his views live on the internet.

He said: “Next April 29, 2020, the Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 will have a close, but safe, encounter with us, coming at about 6.3 millions of kilometres from the Earth.

“The Virtual Telescope Project will show it to you live online: join from your home.”

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Thanks to its size, the asteroid will be bright enough for small instruments to pick it up on the night of the flyby.

US space agency NASA estimates OR2 measures somewhere between 0.9 miles and 2.54 miles (1.5km and 4.1km) in diameter.

The rock will fly past Earth on a trajectory that is officially marked as an “Earth close approach”.

However, NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, NEOs can occasionally approach close to Earth.

“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.

How to watch the asteroid flyby next week?

You will be able to watch the thrilling event live on YouTube, courtesy of the Virtual Telescope Project.

Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 will have a close, but safe, encounter with us

Dr Gianluca Masi, Virtual Telescope Project

Dr Masi told Express.co.uk the stream is scheduled to kick off at exactly 7pm BST (6pm UTC, 1pm EST) on April 28.

The Virtual Telescope’s live feeds are free to enjoy online and will be shared by Express.co.uk on the night.

During his live streams, Dr Masi talks to the audience about science and astronomy.

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How often do asteroids hit our planet?

Although Asteroid OR2 does not pose any threat to Earth, its flyby is a reminder of the potential dangers lurking in deep space.

NASA’s astronomers believe any impactor bigger than 0.6 miles (1km) across is big enough to cause damage on a “global scale”.

But these cataclysmic events are very rare and only happen on a scale of once every few million years.

Currently, NASA knows of no asteroid or comet destined to hit our planet.

The real risk comes from smaller space rocks, so-called near-Earth-objects, that are numerous and frequently zip past Earth.

in 2013, a 65.6ft-wide (20m) rock exploded in the skies over Russia’s Chelyabinsk Oblast and injured more than 1,000 people with shards of blown-out window glass.

Every single day about 100 tons of space dust and sand grain-sized particles pelt the atmosphere.

About once a year, a car-sized asteroid comes crashing into the planet only to create a bright fireball before burning up.

NASA said: “Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area.”

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