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article imageGot binoculars? Check out Monday's asteroid fly-by

By Nathan Salant     Jan 25, 2015 in Science
Pasadena - Got binoculars? Monday's close encounter with Asteroid 2004 BL86 is probably the best time you'll have to use them for sky-watching in the next 13 years.
The asteroid will be passing by Earth on Monday and should be only 745,000 miles or 1.2 million kilometers away at 11:19 a.m., the closest an identifiable piece of outer space will approach the planet until 2027, NASA said.
The asteroid is called 2004 BL86, and it's one-third of a mile long.
NASA says it will come about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth, or about three times as far away as the moon, at 11:19 a.m. ET, according to Cable News Network (CNN).
That may seem like far away, and it is, but it's practically right on top of us in outer-space terms.
"While it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it's a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more," said Don Yeomans, former manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
NASA said the approaching asteroid offers "a rare opportunity" to view a celestial body with binoculars or backyard telescopes as it passes by.
It's so rare that the next opportunity to see an asteroid won't come until 2027, when asteroid 1999 AN10 passes by.
People without a mechanically aided view can watch the asteroid go by on the web's Virtual Telescope Project 2.0, CNN said.
"Asteroids are something special," Yeomens said.
"Not only did asteroids provide Earth with the building blocks of life and much of its water but, in the future, they will become valuable resources for mineral ores and other vital natural resources," he said.
NASA also said its scientists would be taking radar-generated images of 2004 BL86 using its Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., and the world's largest single-dish radio antenna at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, CNN said.
"We should be getting some great radar images of this asteroid," Yeoman's successor, Paul Chodas, told CNN.
"Radar would be the key to study the asteroid's surface, give an idea of its shape, whether it has rocks and that kind of stuff on it -- it'll be really exciting," he said.
BL86 was discovered on Jan. 30, 2004, by observers at the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research survey in White Sands, N.M., CNN said.
More about Asteroid, 2004 BL86, Earth, flyby, Orbit
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