Watch Live as One of the Biggest Asteroids of the Year Speeds Past Earth

On Friday, one of the largest asteroids to make a close approach to the Earth this year will fly past our planet—and you can watch the space rock's close approach live online as it zooms by.

While the size of the asteroid—known as 7335 (1989 JA)—is listed by NASA's Center for Near Earth Studies (CNEOS) database as having a diameter of 1.8 kilometers (5,900 feet). This figure originates from a 1994 study—measuring the size of distant objects in space is difficult and more recent estimates, such as observations conducted by NASA's NEOWISE spacecraft, indicate that is likely closer to around 1 kilometer (3,280 feet) across.

The asteroid will come as close as 2.5 million miles to the Earth at 10:26 a.m. ET on May 27 while traveling at 47,200 miles per hour, figures from CNEOS show.

While this is a relatively close approach in astronomical terms, in practice, this is a "very safe" distance, according to Gianluca Masi, an astronomer from the Virtual Telescope Project (VTP.) In fact, the asteroid will pass our planet at around around 10 times the average distance between the moon and the Earth.

Nevertheless, this is "by far" the closest predicted approach of this particular asteroid for the next 200 years, Greg Brown, an astronomer at Royal Observatory Greenwich in the United Kingdom, told Newsweek.

An asteroid
Stock image showing a large asteroid. On Friday, one of the largest asteroids to make a close approach to the Earth this year will fly past our planet. iStock

The frequency of an asteroid of this size or larger passing this close to the Earth is around once in three to four years, so this is not a particularly unusual event, Don Yeomans, a former NASA planetary scientist, told Newsweek.

Given its large size, 7335 (1989 JA) will be easily observable using relatively small telescopes, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere, as it zooms past us. But if you don't own a telescope and would still like to observe the asteroid as it approaches, the VTP in partnership with Telescope Live will be providing live streams.

One of the live feeds will come from footage captured by a telescope in Chile and is set to begin at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 26. The second live feed is from Australia, and will start at 9 am ET on Friday, May 27.

This space rock is one of more than 29,000 near-Earth objects, or NEOs, that scientists have detected to date. Some of these objects, including 1989 JA, are also classified as potentially hazardous based on their estimated size and orbits.

But despite the name, none of the potentially hazardous objects that are known to scientists have any chance of colliding with the Earth in the next one hundred years or so, CNEOS director Paul Chodas previously told Newsweek.

This includes, 1989 JA, which was discovered in 1989 by astronomer Eleanor "Glo" Helin at the Palomar Observatory in California. The orbit of this space rock is very well known and thus, does not pose even a "remote threat" on May 27, Yeomans said.

Detlef Koschny, a scientist at the European Space Agency, told Newsweek that even at this size, 1989 JA is considered "rather large" for an NEO, with only around 1,000 of the ones we currently know about expected to be bigger.

As a comparison, there are predicted to be around million near-Earth asteroids greater than 40 meters (131 feet) in diameter, and several hundred million larger than 3.5 meters (11.4 feet) across, although only a tiny fraction of these have been observed, according to Brown.

While asteroids smaller than around 25 meters (82 feet) don't pose much of a threat to Earth and would most likely burn up in the atmosphere if they entered, a collision of a larger space rock on the kilometer-scale could have devastating impacts.

"Should an impact of this type occur, one would expect global consequences and at least a partial disruption of civilization," Yeomans said.

Meanwhile, Koschny said the effect of a 1-kilometer-sized object striking the Earth would not be as bad as the impact 66 million years ago that is thought to have pushed the dinosaurs to extinction, but it would still likely cause "global damage."

How much energy such an impact would release is greatly dependent on how fast the asteroid collides with the Earth, which is itself dependent on where the asteroid and Earth are in their orbits, and what angle the impact occurs at, according to Brown.

Nevertheless, an impact of a 1-kilometer asteroid would possible release as much energy as one thousand Tsar Bomba's—the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated, he said.

Thankfully, impacts involving asteroids on this scale are very rare, occurring on average, once every 500,000 to one million years. Furthermore, scientists know about the vast majority of near-Earth asteroids this size, meaning that their orbits can be tracked.