"The Rock", also known by its formal name Asteroid 2014 JO25, will make its closest approach to Earth on April 19 at 7 p.m. EDT (4 p.m. PDT), according to astronomers at Slooh.
While its exact size remains unknown, the asteroid is estimated to measure nearly one kilometer in length. The asteroid is so massive that the “Space Situation Room” team at Slooh nicknamed the asteroid after popular movie star Dwayne Johnson, whose nickname is The Rock.
The asteroid will be making its closest encounter to Earth in 400 years and won’t be this close to Earth for another 500 years, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Lada.
“Close is kind of a relative term,” Lada said. “The closest it’s going to be to the Earth is more than a million miles away.”
While a distance of 1,092,365 miles seems extreme at four times farther away than our moon, it is relatively close in cosmic terms. On Wednesday, The Rock will come closer to Earth than any asteroid of its size in 13 years.
The next asteroid to pass this close with comparable size won’t be until 2027.
“At around 2,000 feet in diameter, an impact with Earth would be cataclysmic on a regional or continental level,” Slooh Astronomer Paul Cox said.
But Cox said that in this case there is no cause for concern. Astronomers have been tracking this asteroid since its discovery in 2014 and are able to predict its orbit for the next couple of centuries.
While the asteroid is labeled as “potentially hazardous,” there is no risk of it impacting Earth within hundreds of years.
“The term Potentially Hazardous Asteroid isn't very useful when trying to explain these objects to the public,” Cox said. “It's applied to asteroids of a certain brightness, from which size estimates are made, and whose orbits intersect Earth's within 4,650,000 miles.”
None of the known 1,798 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids are projected to impact Earth, according to Cox.
While the asteroid will not be able to be seen by the naked eye, it will be visible with the use of small telescopes.
The best method to view the asteroid is using specialist telescopes and highly sensitive Charged Coupled Device cameras, according to Cox. Those with access to stargazing equipment will have the ability to view the white light fly across the Draco constellation.
While the asteroid is better positioned for viewing from the Northern Hemisphere, with the right equipment it can be seen from all over the world.
More information, such as a more specific size and shape, will be collected about the asteroid during its closest approach. Measurements of its precise position and brightness will better determine its orbit.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for stargazers and people that have telescopes to try to find it, even though it’s going to be more of a challenging target,” Lada said.