For people who are even slightly familiar with the solar system, it is common knowledge that Earth is in the middle of a cosmic shooting gallery with millions upon millions of asteroids constantly hurtling through the solar system at almost unimaginable speeds. Just days ago, it was announced that, come Saturday, Earth is going to have a close encounter with an asteroid that, literally, avoided detection until almost the last minute.
Fortunately, though, the asteroid will pass Earth, but only with about 600,000 miles (about half the Earth's circumference) to spare.
Asteroid 2013 ET is estimated to be about 330 feet across. The good news is that is will, once again, pose absolutely no threat to Earth. However, there is one unsettling fact: the football field-sized asteroid was discovered just a few days ago. For astronomers at NASA's Near Earth Object Program, it is events like these, asteroids passing Earth within only days of discovery, that reinforce the need to be vigilant in scanning the skies.
As for asteroids themselves, most lie in the Main Asteroid Belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter. In the Early solar system, dust was everywhere. In time, dust particles started colliding and clumping together. As the groups of gravitationally-bound space debris got bigger and bigger, they attracted most of the loose space debris in the solar system to form the planets. However, for reasons unknown, the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter never coalesced into a planet, thus resulting in the Asteroid Belt. Occasionally, asteroids collide, sending both out of the belt and flying on random trajectories through space, which is almost certainly what happened with 2013 ET.
Now, as the asteroid will be coming so close to Earth: the big question many astronomers are asking themselves is this: will I be able to see it?
Unfortunately for us in the Cleveland area, the answer is probably not. Why? While even at it's closest, 2013 ET will be all but too faint to be seen in all but the largest of (as in observatory-grade) telescopes as it will still be over half a million miles distant.
Looking to do some stargazing in the Cleveland area? As the last part of the puzzle, be sure to keep an eye on the Cleveland weather forecast and, for hour-by-hour cloud predictions, the Cleveland Clear Sky Clock if you plan to head out and look at the stars this coming week. Live somewhere else? Find a clock and see if it will be clear near you.
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Bodzash Photography & Astronomy