SANTA’S SLEIGH? 460ft-wide ‘Christmas asteroid’ to come within 680,000 km of Earth, how to view space rock

SANTA’S SLEIGH? 460ft-wide ‘Christmas asteroid’ to come within 680,000 km of Earth, how to view space rock

By Juna Tharakan

A huge space rock dubbed ‘Christmas asteroid’ will be coming within 420,000 miles (680,000 km) of our planet when it makes its closest approach on Thursday. The asteroid reportedly poses no threat to Earth.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has challenged amateur astronomers to spot and photograph the asteroid 2015 RN35 to mark its closest approach to our planet. The asteroid’s best view can be seen from the Southern Hemisphere. stargazers in Europe will also be able to locate it between now and December 19.

What is ‘Christmas asteroid’?

The Christmas asteroid is a huge asteroid that is named ‘2015 RN35’. The asteroid that was discovered on September 9, 2015, has a size of 196ft – 460 ft (60-140 meters). The asteroid will be making its closest approach to our planet.


When will Christmas asteroid pass by Earth?

On December 15, 2022, at 8.10 GMT (3.10 ET), the space rock will pass the Earth. The asteroid can be spotted between now and December 19 in Europe.


ESA Christmas Asteroid Challenge
“Smaller than the Statue of Liberty, this asteroid is pretty little on astronomical scales. And as flybys go, at just under two times the distance to the moon, it’s not likely to make newspaper headlines,” the agency wrote in a blog post on its website. Challenging amateur astronomers and celebrating the space rock’s release, ESA wrote “Use the hashtag #ESAChristmasAsteroid on social media to share your results, which we will share on our @esaoperations channel.” “We look forward to seeing your observations!” the agency added.


How to view the Christmas asteroid?

ESA says that the Christmas asteroid can be detected using telescopes 11 inches (30 cm) and larger. For a better experience, an ‘asteroid toolkit’ that is available for free to all has been developed by the ESA to help both amateur and professional astronomers to locate the space rock, letting the observers visualize the asteroid’s orbit.

Using the new near-Earth object (NEO) Toolkit, stargazers will be able to understand more about the Apollo group of asteroids and the methods to view it.


Juan-Luis Cani, information system manager at the NEOCC in Rome where the toolkit was developed said, “We use these tools every day to plan our observations, to visualize asteroid close approaches and to help us understand and explain the varied asteroid populations in the Solar System and the risk we face. We want them to be as useful to the rest of the world as they are to us, because planetary defence is a global effort.”

According to the Daily Mail, the Christmas asteroid is interesting to scientists, particularly because of it’s the information about it is less known to them starting from its making, whether it spins on its axis, how big it is, or more about its orbit. However, the agency has confirmed that the asteroid would not strike Earth at least in the next century.

“With these observations, we determine the motion of asteroids and project their path into the future, in order to know if – when – an asteroid could strike. As the recent DART impact showed, and as ESA’s Hera mission will expand on, with enough warning an asteroid impact is the only natural disaster we can prevent.”, says Richard Moissl, ESA’s head of planetary defense. Observation Planning ToolOrbit Visualisation ToolSky Chart Display Tool, and Flyby Visualisation Tool are the tools included in the asteroid observation toolkit.






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