According to researchers at NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, three asteroids will zoom by our planet this weekend.
The most notable upcoming visitor is a newly discovered small object called 2018 VX1. Spotted by astronomers with the Mount Lemmon Survey on Sunday, the space rock is estimated to measure about 8 to 18 meters wide (26 to 60 feet). NASA calculations predict that 2018 VX1, as part of its orbit around the Sun, will pass within 237,000 miles (around 380,000 kilometers) of Earth at around 1:20 pm Eastern Time on Saturday. For reference, the distance from the Moon to Earth averages 238,855 miles (384,400 kilometers) during its orbit.
If you want to observe the asteroid as it swings by, the Virtual Telescope Project will be live-streaming its movements during the closest part of the encounter, beginning at 1:00 pm ET.
Shortly before its arrival, two other small celestial bodies will be zipping by, albeit at much greater distances. An asteroid called 2018 VS1 will pass by at a maximum closeness of 1,386,700 kilometers (861,700 miles) – 3.6 times that of the distance between Earth and the Moon – at around 9:03 am ET. This object is estimated to be between 12 and 27 meters (40 and 90 feet) in diameter.
At 9:19 am ET, 2018 VR1 (we know, not super thrilling names, but there are too many objects traveling around in our solar system to give them all awesome monikers), a 13- to 30-meter diameter (45- to 100- foot) rock will zip past some 5,035,600 kilometers (129,000 miles) away.
And though some recent sensationalist headlines may tease otherwise, none of these three asteroids pose any threat to our planet.
‘‘As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth,” NASA said in a statement to Yahoo News.
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometers.”
Luckily for stargazers, a variety of other exciting astronomical phenomena will also be observable this month. As shared by “What’s Up”, a video guide for amateur astronomers hosted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Jane Houston Jones, the asteroid 3 Juno will be visible from the 1st to the 22nd of November. Named after the Roman goddess who was queen of the entire pantheon (known as Hera to the Greeks), 3 Juno is the third asteroid discovered and the 11th brightest overall. It will come within 149,597,800 kilometers (92,955,806 miles) this month, the closest its been since 2005, making it bright enough to be seen with simple binoculars.
Midway through the month, anyone willing to stay up past midnight will also be able to see the Leonids meteors, though this year will not be as spectacular as some past annual encounters. Here are some viewing tips from NASA.