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Monday, January 26, 2015

An asteroid got the dinosaurs. It's not our turn (yet). But today, it's close. So close, you can actually go out and see it. - Jan 26 2015

Not Music, but cool...

How to Spot Asteroid 2004 BL86, in the Sky and Online

A mountain-sized asteroid zoomed harmlessly past our planet on Monday, and it's not too late to see the space rock online or in the sky.

Radar readings show that the asteroid, known as 2004 BL86, is about two-tenths of a mile wide (300 meters wide), researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said. They also reported that the asteroid appears to have boulders on its surface — and a tiny moon nearby.

Observers might be able to see 2004 BL86 with binoculars or a small telescope because of its significant size.

Today at about 11 am ET / 8 am PT, the asteroid made its closest approach to Earth, coming within about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers). That's just three times farther away than the Moon. NASA says the asteroid posed no danger to our planet.

It's expected to be the closest that THIS asteroid will come to the Earth for the next 200 years.

The Slooh virtual observatory presented a webcast about the asteroid via today, featuring live commentary from Paul Chodas, a NASA expert on near-Earth objects, and NASA research scientist Lance Benner.

Benner showed off radar imagery of the space rock, captured overnight by the Goldstone radio telescope in California.

"This is an object that's rounded," he said. "It has a moon."

Benner said the radar patterns also suggested there were boulders on the mountain-sized rock's surface. Additional imagery would be captured Monday night, he said.

At 11:30 am PT, the Italy-based Virtual Telescope Project will offer a second webcast of the asteroid at:

The asteroid is not visible to the naked eye, but it's definitely within reach to observers with binoculars or a 3- or 4-inch telescope. If you know when and where to look, according to a skywatching alert from Sky & Telescope magazine.

Radar readings from the Goldstone radio telescope in California show the rounded shape of asteroid 2004 BL86 and a tiny speck of a moon.

"For people who want to look in the right direction, you just have to find the brightest 'star' in the sky … and that's Jupiter," Slooh astronomer Bob Berman said. Then, he added, locate the star Procyon, which forms the winter triangle along with Betelgeuse and Sirius. The asteroid will be passing directly between the two stars for most of the evening, he said.

Observers in the Americas, Europe, and Africa will have the best seats during the asteroid's peak brightness, which is expected to last from 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT, until about 1 am ET / 10 pm PT, on Tuesday.

— Shannon Hall,

(This is a condensed and updated version of a report from

If you capture a telescope view of asteroid 2004 BL86 during its flyby and want to share it with, you can send images and comments to managing editor Tariq Malik at:


1) Universe Today, with good online features, at:

2) Animation: "Asteroid Could Be Half-Kilometer Wide," at:

3) Infographic: "Famous Space Rock Flybys and Close Calls," at:


4) "The Seven Strangest Asteroids in the Solar System," at:

Most of the foregoing is a condesation from NBC News. Their story is at:


The Guide will be back tomorrow with fresh music news. Meantime, enjoy the January 22 edition and its MANY news features. It's available just below or in the sidebar at left, depending on where you're reading this.

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