Tomorrow night, backyard astronomers may catch a glimpse of an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier that will miss Earth by only 200,000 miles as it flies by.
Although there’s no danger of the space rock accidentally hitting our planet, it marks the closest flyby of an asteroid this large since 1976, according to NASA.
Asteroid 2005 YU55, as it is called, won’t be visible to the naked eye, and it will be moving fast, but Space.com has some tips on how you can make sure not to miss it:
— Get a telescope with at least a six-inch mirror. You can find beginner telescopes here. “It turns out that YU55 is going to be pretty faint when it flies by,” Scott Fisher, program director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Astronomical Sciences, told Space.com. “You will need a decent sized telescope to be able to actually see the object.”
— Watch it in the early evening. It is expected to pass closest to Earth, at 201,700 miles, at 6:28 p.m. The best place to view it is the U.S. East Coast.
— Follow the asteroid’s coordinates at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Dynamics Web site, which keeps up an Asteroid Watch to detect, track and characterize potentially hazardous asteroids.
— Get answers in a Washington Post chat with an expert on near-Earth asteroids, National Science Foundation astronomer Thomas Statler, at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
— Below, watch a video from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to find out more on the asteroid and other close encounters: