Photo Shows Huge 3,280-Ft Asteroid Approaching Earth

An astronomer has captured footage of the asteroid 7482 (1994 PC1) ahead of its close pass by Earth on Tuesday afternoon.

1994 PC1 is a huge asteroid thought to be around a kilometer or 3,280 feet in diameter. It's classed as "potentially hazardous" according to NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) due to its size and potential to get relatively close to our planet—though it is not expected to hit Earth.

Using a ground-based telescope, astronomer Gianluca Masi, manager of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, was able to take the below image of the asteroid on its approach to Earth on Monday.

Asteroid 1994 PC1
Asteroid 1994 PC1 seen flying through space on January 17, 2022, from Italy. The asteroid is not expected to hit Earth. Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope Project

The asteroid can be seen as a bright dot in the middle of the photo, indicated by a white arrow. The bright streaks are caused by the light of stars which are blurred as the telescope tracks the asteroid's movement.

By taking a sequence of images, Masi was also able to make an animation of the asteroid as it moved across the sky, as seen below. At the time the images were taken, 1994 PC1 was around 1.7 million miles away.

Remote file

When 1994 PC1 makes its close approach to our planet on Tuesday at around 4:51 p.m. ET it will actually be more than 1.2 million miles away according to CNEOS—five times farther away from us than the moon is.

This is relatively close for an asteroid of its size. In addition, 1994 PC1 is expected to be traveling at around 45,000 miles per hour when it makes its close pass by Earth.

Afterwards, it will continue to orbit the sun which it does once every 572 days. Although 1994 PC1 will come close to Earth again in the coming years, it won't come quite so close as it does on Tuesday until the next century.

The Virtual Telescope Project is due to observe the event and host a livestream of the asteroid as it passes overhead. The online video is set to start at 3:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday on the Virtual Telescope Project's WebTV page.

It is not uncommon for asteroids to come close to Earth. Three space rocks zoomed past our planet at the end of 2021, including one thought to have been potentially as large as 850 feet in diameter.

Scientists are seriously considering the threat posed to Earth by wandering asteroids, and in 2021 launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission to test technology hopefully capable of deflecting them.

Asteroid
A stock photo shows an illustration of an asteroid against a backdrop of stars. Asteroids pass by Earth often, and some come closer than others. Alexandr_Zharikov/Getty