Astro Bob's Backyard Almanac: A Close Visit from a New Asteroid
There’s always plenty going on in the cosmos. The International Space Station will be passing by in the northern sky, the Chinese station “Heavenly Palace” will visibly float by, and a few planets will be dancing around with the moon. There is order and predictability in outer space.
But even science can only dial in accuracy to a point. A newly discovered asteroid will be passing by earth in the next few days. “We have an exceptionally close one this week," says Bob King regarding an upcoming asteroid fly-by. A fifteen-foot diameter asteroid is estimated to zip by earth on Thursday at 3:16pm. Those in the Northland will not have a chance to view the asteroid which will pass remarkably close to the Earth at a distance of 2,200 miles. To put it in perspective; "There's a belt of satellites that are 22,000 miles away," says King. This asteroid will pass ten times closer to Earth than those satellites. "There is a chance - a tiny chance - that the calculations are slightly off." If there are mistakes in the estimations, the asteroid could collide with Earth's atmosphere and break into pieces.
With no asteroids to watch for here in the Northland, Bob King offers a guide and schedule for the ISS and the Chinese Tiangong station.
Both space stations first appear in the western sky and travel east. The ISS is really bright; Tiangong is less so but still obvious. To find them, be outside about 5-10 minutes before the start of each pass so your eyes can get used to the dark. Then just face in the correct direction. The times below are for the Duluth, Minnesota region.
Tuesday, Jan. 24
-ISS: Watch from 5:42-49 p.m. Crosses the northern sky and passes directly under the North Star at 5:46 p.m.
-Tiangong: Watch from 6:43-47 p.m. Nice southern sky pass. You’ll see it fade and disappear at the end as the satellite moves into Earth’s shadow.
Wednesday, Jan. 25
-ISS: 6:31-35 p.m. Crosses the northern sky again
-Tiangong: 5:44-49 p.m. Crosses the southern sky. Passes below Jupiter and the moon, then under Orion.
Thursday, Jan. 26
-ISS: 5:43-49 p.m. Crosses the northern sky
-Tiangong: 6:21-26 p.m. Crosses the southern sky
Friday, Jan. 27
-ISS: 6:31-35 p.m. Crosses the northern sky
-Tiangong: 6:59-7:02 p.m. Low in the southwestern-southern sky. Disappears into Earth’s shadow at the end.
Saturday, Jan. 28
-ISS: 5:42-5:48 p.m. Crosses the northern sky
-Tiangong: 5:59-6:04 p.m. Crosses low in the southern sky
Sunday, Jan. 29
-ISS: 6:30-6:35 p.m. Crosses high in the northern sky. At 6:35 p.m. it will dim and disappear as it moves into Earth’s shadow
-Tiangong: 6:37-6:39 p.m. Crosses very low in the southern sky.