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Asteroid Swings Close Tonight, Possibly Seen Around Oregon, the Coast

Published 04/19/2017 at 5:23 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Oregon Coast) – NASA scientists say a giant asteroid will pass close by Earth tonight and be visible with small telescopes perhaps through Thursday night. Weather along the Oregon coast and the rest of the state may prevent that, but Thursday opens up a little.

The object, known as 2014 JO25, will sail safely past the Earth, but it is the closest an asteroid of this size or bigger has come to this planet since 2004. 2014 JO25 is about 2,000 feet in size and will zoom past here some 1.1 million miles away – about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

Asteroid Toutatis, a 3.1-mile object, came just a tad closer to the planet in September of 2004, at four times the distance from here to the moon.

2014 JO25 was first discovered in 2014 by astronomers working out of the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, which is a part of NASA's Near Earth Object (NEO) Observations Program. That group made the measurements of 2014 JO25, and also noted it has a surface that twice as reflective of the moon.

Scientists know much about its trajectory but little else of its composition or other properties.

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2014 JO25 is predicted to brighten to a magnitude 11, which means it can't be seen by the naked eye. The lower the magnitude number the brighter, which is why when the International Space Station makes appearances luminous enough to be seen it's measured at -3.0 or around there, for example. Magnitude 11 will let this asteroid be seen by smaller microscopes, such as the ones many families have.

To spot it, look to the north starting after midnight tonight (Wednesday, on the Oregon coast, Pacific Time). It will be passing through the constellation of Draco the Dragon. The brightest moments may well have already passed, however, as it began its crawl in the wee hours of Wednesday. It's possible it could be seen on Thursday night, but it begins passing out of view then.

Weather for Oregon and the coast probably won't cooperate at all until Thursday night. In fact, tonight the stage is set for showers and possible thunderstorms on the Oregon coast. On Thursday, both inland Oregon (such as Portland) and the coast are looking at some cloud breaks. See Oregon Coast Weather.

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