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Posted at 03:47 PM ET, 06/14/2012

Big asteroid to zip by Earth tonight; find the Snowman on asteroid Vesta

A super-sized asteroid - named 2012 LZ1 - will whiz by our planet tonight. There is no cause for concern of a deep impact or even a glancing blow, however. The space rock will pass 14 lunar distances or 3.35 million miles away.

The closest pass to Earth will occur around 8:00 p.m. EDT says Space.com. The website Slooh.com will stream the flyby.


This image of Vesta released by NASA was captured by Dawn spacecraft on July 9, 2011 (AP)
USA Today says the asteroid is between 1,000-2,300 feet wide or “roughly two to four times the size of the Washington Monument.”

Asteroid Vesta

Asteroid 2012 LZ1 is big, but nothing compared to asteroid Vesta, which measures 330 miles across. NASA announced today that its Dawn spacecraft will begin its final data gathering phase from that asteroid tomorrow, Friday June 15.

Vesta is the brightest (but not visible with the naked eye) asteroid in our solar system and the second-largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The Dawn spacecraft began orbiting Vesta almost one year ago (July 16, 2011) and has snapped thousands of images.

Asteroid and the Snowman

The above sounds like it could be the title of a Saturday morning cartoon show for kids, or perhaps another forgettable science fiction flick with a superhero named Snowman saving Earth from imminent destruction by collision with a huge asteroid.

Of the thousands of images of Vesta the Dawn spacecraft captured, one in particular revealed a snowman formation. We’ll show you four possible images, to see if you can spot it:

Do you see the snowman?? Concentrate, and use your imagination as necessary. Yeah, we know there is no snow, so how could there be a snowman? It should be rather obvious.

Still having trouble? Or even if not, click here.

The picture, the first showing the set of three craters was nicknamed Snowman by Dawn mission scientists given the likeness to the pile of large snowballs .

The greeting card shown was one of many of winter-themed greeting cards using images of asteroid Vesta. See more and, if so inclined, become a greeting card artist by following the guidelines provided by the “Dawn Community

Interesting factoid:

Vesta is one of the largest single sources for meteorites found on Earth, i.e., rocks strewn into space towards Earth when Vesta was battered by other objects that produced craters during the early life of the solar system. Indeed, Vesta is considered a fossil of the early solar system. Moreover, the observations from Dawn are the first time a spacecraft visited the source of identifiable meteorites after they were discovered on Earth.

Videos

Asteroid 2012 LZ1

Credit: Nick Howes, Ernesto Guido & Giovanni Sostero / Remanzacco Observatory

Asteroid Vesta

Credit: NASA

By and  |  03:47 PM ET, 06/14/2012

Categories:  Astronomy, Space, Latest

 
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