Three Thanksgiving Asteroids to Zoom Past Earth This Week, Ahead of Lunar Eclipse

Three asteroids are set to sail past the Earth around Thanksgiving, ahead of a lunar eclipse early next week.

On November 25, a space rock dubbed 2020 VK6 will make its closest approach to Earth at 4:05 p.m., coming within 3.1 million miles of Earth, according to NASA's Center for Near Earth Studies (CNEOS).

This is equivalent to around 13 times the average distance between the Earth and the moon, CNEOS data shows.

Astronomers estimate that the asteroid, which is travelling at around 25,000 miles per hour, measures up to 157 feet in diameter.

Another two asteroids will make their closest approach to the Earth late on November 25 and on Thanksgiving day itself.

Known as 2018 RQ4 and 2020 VO2, both of these space rocks are similar in size—up to 80-90 feet in width.

The latter will pass the Earth at a similar distance to 2020 VK6. But 2018 RQ4 could come as close as about 265,000 miles—only slightly greater than the average distance between our planet and the moon.

This is the asteroid's "minimum possible close-approach distance," however, with the expected distance calculated to be 1.9 million miles.

These asteroids will fly past the Earth just a few days ahead of another notable astronomical event: a full moon featuring what's known as a "penumbral lunar eclipse."

These events occur when the moon passes through the more diffused part of the Earth's shadow—called the penumbra.

During these eclipses, parts of the moon appear slightly darker than usual—although the effect is often very subtle, and sometimes imperceptible, to the untrained eye.

"A penumbral lunar eclipse happens when our moon is 'kissed' only marginally by the most external regions of the structure of the Earth's shadow," astronomer Gianluca Masi, from the Virtual Telescope Project, previously told Newsweek.

The upcoming penumbral eclipse will begin at 02:32 a.m. ET on November 30 and will end four hours and 21 minutes later. Maximum eclipse will be at 09:42 a.m. ET, at which point around 82 percent of the moon will appear darker than usual.

The eclipse will be visible across most of North America, the Pacific Ocean and northeastern Asia, according to timeandate.com.

Lunar eclipses can only happen during full moons. These occur when the Earth is located directly behind the sun and the moon, and all three bodies are lined up in the same plane. In these moments, which occur roughly once every month, the moon appears fully illuminated, like a perfect circle.

On November 30, this moment will occur at 4:29 a.m. ET, although the moon will appear full to most people.

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Stock image: Artist's illustration of asteroids in the solar system. iStock