Asteroid 2014 RC—nicknamed Pitbull—will be making its closest approach to Earth on Sunday, September 7. This 20-meter-wide asteroid will be passing just 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles) away, which is roughly a tenth of the average distance to the moon. Two observatories independently observed the asteroid just days ago during Labor Day weekend.
Approximation of Pitbull’s orbit. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Don’t freak out: The asteroid doesn’t pose a threat. NASA also reports that it will also be just out of reach from weather and communication satellites in high Earth and geosynchronous orbits. There are over 11,000 near-Earth objects whizzing by at any given time, so it’s not completely unprecedented that one would come this close. The Slooh Community Observatory reports that if the asteroid were to hit us, it would cause more damage than the impact in Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. Thankfully, that’s nothing we have to worry about.
Though Pitbull will be approaching about 1/10th of the distance of the moon, the Earth isn’t in any danger. Times represented in Universal Time. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Astronomers are taking advantage of this close approach and will use the opportunity to track the asteroid and determine if it is possible that Pitbull will pose a threat in the future.
Unfortunately, the asteroid is too small to seen with the naked eye and will be moving too fast to be spotted by the average amateur’s telescope, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to catch a glimpse of it.
The folks at Slooh will be doing a live webcast as Pitbull makes its near approach, and you can watch it right here. The event will begin on Saturday at 10 p.m. EDT and will be joined by astronomers Bob Berman and Geoff Fox. If you’d like to join the conversation too, be sure to use #SloohPitbull on social media.