Airplane-size asteroid will have 'very close encounter' with Earth on Saturday — and you can watch it happen

Diagram showing the orbits of Earth and the near-Earth asteroid 2024 BJ.
Asteroid 2024 BJ (orbit shown in white) will zoom close past Earth (orbit show in light blue) on Jan. 27. (Image credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/CalTech)

An asteroid discovered earlier this month will reach its closest point to Earth on tomorrow (Jan. 27), when it will soar through the sky at a distance closer to us than the moon.

You can watch the airplane-size asteroid as it sails just 220,000 miles (354,000 kilometers) from Earth — more than nine tenths of the average distance between our planet and the moon — on a Virtual Telescope Project live feed from 12:15 p.m. EST. The flying space rock will reach its closest point to Earth at 12:30 p.m. EST, according to NASA.

Astronomers first detected the up to 121-foot-wide (37 meters) asteroid, dubbed 2024 BJ, on Jan. 17. They documented their discovery the following day, after calculating that the rock will safely soar past our planet without incident.

The asteroid will fly close to the moon just before 9 a.m. EST before zooming past Earth three and a half hours later at an estimated speed of 14,200 mph (22,850 km/h). Although 2024 BJ will have a "very close encounter" with Earth, the rock poses "no risks at all for our planet," according to the Virtual Telescope Project.

Related: How NASA correctly predicted that a tiny asteroid would burn up over Germany, hours before it happened 

2024 BJ is a near-Earth asteroid of the Apollo type, which means its egg-shaped orbit crosses that of Earth to reach its closest point to the sun before turning around and extending out toward the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. 

Apollo asteroids, of which over 1,600 are currently known, make up the majority of the population of Earth-crossing and potentially hazardous asteroids. But fear not: 2024 BJ is nowhere near large enough to be considered hazardous. In fact, Earth appears to be safe from asteroids — at least from cataclysmic, "planet-killer" ones measuring more than 0.6 miles (1 km) across — for the next 1,000 years

And if a currently unknown planet-killer should happen to sneak up on us — say, from the direction of the glaring sun — scientists already have a few plans for dealing with such an Earth-threatening catastrophe, including attempting to deflect the space rock with rockets, or possibly with nuclear weapons detonated in space. Hopefully, we'll never have to put such a mission to the test. 

Editor's note: This article was updated on Jan. 26 to include new information about the timing of the asteroid's approach.

Sascha Pare
Trainee staff writer

Sascha is a U.K.-based trainee staff writer at Live Science. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Southampton in England and a master’s degree in science communication from Imperial College London. Her work has appeared in The Guardian and the health website Zoe. Besides writing, she enjoys playing tennis, bread-making and browsing second-hand shops for hidden gems.

  • Giovani
    admin said:
    Asteroid 2024 BJ, which astronomers detected earlier this month, will be live-streamed as it zooms within 220,000 miles of Earth, or closer to us than the average distance to the moon.

    Newly discovered asteroid the size of an airplane will have 'very close encounter' with Earth on Saturday — and you can watch it happen : Read more
    Less than thirty days following the discovery that an iron/nickel meteor the size of New York's empire State Building is projected to impact earth. That is the headline we can expect just as sure as this one, at any time.
    Less than a month to react and secure the planet from a partial extinction event. Scary stuff which is actually possible to take place.