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Huge asteroid will pass close to Earth on January 18, 2022 How to see it?

This giant asteroid named (7482) 1994 PC1 does not pose a security threat to our planet.

Foto: Yuting Gao / Pexels

A large stony asteroid will safely pass close to Earth on January 18, 2022, with an estimated size of around 3,280 feet, about 2.5 times the height of the Empire State Building.

The asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1, we have known about it since 1994 and although it is classified as a potentially dangerous one due to its size and its relatively close flybys of our planet, NASA assures that poses no threat to Earth.

At its closest point, will pass just over five times the distance from the Earth to the Moon, which will occur on January 18, 2022 at 4:51 pm EST; this will be the closest distance of this asteroid to our planet for at least the next 200 years.

It is worth mentioning that an asteroid this size hits Earth, on average, about every 600,000 years; this one, to be exact, will pass 1.2 million miles from Earth, and while that’s a very safe distance, it’s close enough to be easily observed with a small telescope.

Star chart with constellations and red labeled markings around the asteroid.
The asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 will be in the constellation of Pisces on January 18, 2022. (Photo: Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium)

Potentially dangerous asteroid

Robert McNaught discovered the asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia on August 9, 1994. With its trajectory in hand, astronomers found the space rock in earlier images from other observations dating back to September 1974. With 47 years of observations, its orbit is well established.

The huge space rock travels at 43,754 miles per hour relative to Earth. The considerable speed will allow amateur astronomers to detect the speedy asteroid. It will appear as a point of light, similar to a star, passing in front of background stars over the course of the night.

Asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 will shine around magnitude 10. A 10th-magnitude object is a decent target for observers using a 6-inch or larger backyard telescope from a dark-sky site.

How to see it with a telescope

Sky enthusiasts using a small telescope pointed at the correct time and location could spot asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1. For North America, observers with home telescopes have the best chance of seeing the huge asteroid hours after the close approach on January 18.

They should be able to detect the movement of the space rock thanks to its size and proximity. When the asteroid passes near fixed background stars, the movement will be more noticeable.

Another good technique to spot the asteroid is to attach a camera to the telescope and take 30-45 second exposures. Point the camera and telescope at a reference star or object in the asteroid’s path.

This image below could help you find reference stars. An image exposed for several seconds shows the movement of the space rock as a beam of light, while shorter exposures reveal the asteroid as a point of light that appears in different places in the images.

Four white dots with the top labeled as a star and one below labeled as the asteroid.
Location of asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 on January 18, 2022, around 7:25 pm. ITS T. (Photo: Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium)

Despite the full Moon on January 18, the asteroid will be easy to spot with small telescopes, as the Moon will be a good distance in the sky from where the space rock will be.

Two white dots on a black background, one with red markings around it.  Small red oval below.
January 18, 2022 at 7:45 p.m. EST. (Photo: Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium)

Furthermore, experienced observers agree that asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 will be one of the easiest asteroids to locate, if the telescope is pointed at the correct position and time.

Six white dots on a black background, markings around, the highest labeled with the name of the star.
Location of asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 on January 18, 2022 at 8:45 pm EST. (Photo: Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium)

Also read:
How big does an asteroid have to be to wipe out all life on Earth?
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China builds an “artificial moon” that simulates low gravity with magnets

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