‘Potentially Hazardous’ Asteroid Expected to Zoom Past Earth

by Clayton Edwards

Space is vast and full of mysteries and fascinating objects. Sometimes, those objects come speeding past our planet at close range. Later this afternoon, we’ll have the chance to witness something truly amazing. A massive and potentially hazardous asteroid will zip past our little blue planet.  

1994 PC1 is an asteroid that is about one kilometer wide. This afternoon, it’ll pass by Earth at a distance that NASA refers to as “potentially hazardous.” However, we don’t have to worry. NASA’s Planetary Defense experts have been tracking and studying this particular asteroid for decades. They’re certain that it will fly safely by Earth without making contact.

You can watch this potentially hazardous asteroid as it travels by Earth. However, it won’t be visible to the naked eye. Instead, you can watch 1994 PC1 fly by on NASA’s “Eyes on Asteroid” website, according to Fox News. You can also head over to the Virtual Telescope Project and watch their live stream of the event. That stream will kick off at 3 pm Eastern Time. Experts believe that the asteroid will pass by Earth at around 4:15 Eastern Time.

Astronomers at Australia’s Siding Spring Observatory discovered 1994 PC1 in 1994. They’ve been tracking it since then. Finally, after more than 20 years, the potentially hazardous asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth. Then, it will fly back into space. Experts say that it won’t be this close to our planet again for another 200 years. So, today is a big day for those who have been watching this particular object since its discovery. At the same time, it’s a chance for everyone to catch a glimpse of a once-in-a-lifetime event.

So, What Makes 1994 PC1 a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid?

1994 PC1 is considered a Near Earth Object as well as a potentially hazardous asteroid. When it passes by later today, it will be about 1.2 million miles away. This leaves many to wonder how the asteroid earned either of those designations.

To laymen, this asteroid may not seem near-Earth or potentially hazardous. After all, experts are certain it poses no threat to us. Additionally, it’s over a million miles away. However, NASA sees things differently. They measure things on the scale of the vastness of space. As a result, 1.2 million miles isn’t that far away.

NASA defines an object that comes within 28 million miles of Earth as a Near-Earth Object. With that in mind, 1994 PC1 seems much closer than it did before. Additionally, NASA defines any asteroid or other object that is more than 460 feet in diameter as potentially hazardous. If something that large did make contact, it would cause some damage. The keyword there is “potentially” rather than “hazardous.”