1998 OR2 Livestream: Watch the Biggest Asteroid of the Year Pass Earth Live Online

Today, an asteroid known as 1998 OR2—which measures somewhere between 1.1 and 2.5 miles wide—is making a close approach to our planet, and you can watch it online as it sails by.

The asteroid, known as 1998 OR2, is large and bright enough that it can be viewed through amateur astronomy equipment. However, the Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) operated by astronomer Gianluca Masi, will also be providing a live stream of the asteroid's journey past our planet.

The VTP, which consists of robotic telescopes that are remotely accessible in real-time over the internet, will begin the live feed at 6:30 p.m. UTC, or 2:30 p.m. ET, on April 29.

"The potentially hazardous asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 has an estimated diameter in the range 1.8 – 4.1 kilometers: this will make it quite bright around the time of the fly-by, so it will be visible through small instruments," Masi wrote on the VTP website.

"The Virtual Telescope Project will show it live, thanks to its advanced technologies, bringing it to you via the Internet. This way, you can join the journey from the comfort of your home. Our online observing session will cover the final moments of its safe, close approach," he said.

By the time the live stream starts, the asteroid—which is traveling at approximately 19,500 miles per hour—will technically have already made its closest approach to our planet.

According to NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS,) this occurred at 5:56 a.m. ET when the distance of the asteroid from Earth was around 3.9 million miles, or about 16 times the distance between our planet and the moon. While this may seem far, this distance is relatively small in astronomical terms.

It is important to note, however, that the trajectory of 1998 OR2—which was discovered in 1998 and has been tracked ever since—is well-known, with astronomers assuring that there is no chance of a collision with Earth for at least the next 200 years.

Nevertheless, 1998 OR2 is classified as "potentially hazardous" because over the course of centuries, or millennia, very small changes in the asteroid's orbit around the sun could make it more of a risk to our planet than it currently poses.

Technically, potentially hazardous asteroids are those that come within around 4.6 million miles of Earth and are large enough, estimated to be more than 460 feet in diameter, to cause significant regional damage in the event of an impact.

asteroid
Stock photo: Artist's illustration of an asteroid. iStock

1998 OR2 is one of the brightest, and therefore the largest known potentially hazardous asteroids. In fact, it is the largest to make a close approach to the Earth within the next year at least.

The latest close approach is an exceptional opportunity to learn more about the space rock using telescopes and ground-based radar. This is particularity important in order to refine its future trajectory, especially given that its next encounter with Earth will not take place until 2079.

"The radar measurements allow us to know more precisely where the asteroid will be in the future, including its future close approaches to Earth," Flaviane Venditti, a research scientist at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico—which is currently observing the space rock—said in a statement. "In 2079, asteroid 1998 OR2 will pass Earth about 3.5 times closer than it will this year, so it is important to know its orbit precisely."