This year Earth receives a very special guest for Christmas.
An asteroid that could be the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza is closing in close today and skywatchers are challenged to spot it. The European Space Agency (ESA) has issued a challenge to identify the Christmas asteroid, officially designated 2015 RN35, and has encouraged anyone who does to share their observations on social media using the hashtag #ESAChristmasAsteroid (Opens in a new tab)And the Add information about themselves and where they discovered the space rock.
The challenge begins in the early morning hours of Thursday (December 15), when 2015 RN35 will come to about 430,000 miles (686,000 km) from Earth, about twice the distance to the Moon, at 3:12 a.m. EDT (0812). morning GMT).
Related: Amateur astronomers challenged to spot an asteroid this Christmas
Budding asteroid hunters will have until next week to spot the birthday asteroid, although traveling at an estimated speed of about 13,500 mph (21,700 km/h) across Earth, 2015 RN35 will remain visible until Monday (December 19).
With a magnitude of about 14, making it as bright as Pluto, it wouldn’t take the James Webb Space Telescope in your backyard to spot the Christmas asteroid either. In good viewing conditions with clear, dark skies, 2015 RN35 should be visible with telescopes of 11.8 inches (30 cm) and larger.
The ESA Challenge offers citizen scientists a chance to get into the ground floor of discovery when it comes to 2015 RN35, which was first identified in 2015. This is because although there is only a rough estimate of the size of this asteroid, between 200 to 460 feet (200 to 460 feet) 60 ft) and 140 meters), and knowing that it takes 654 days to orbit the sun, little is known about this space rock including its composition.
The Christmas Asteroid Challenge coincides with a free launch by the European Space Agency (ESA). Near Earth Object (NEO) Instrument Set (Opens in a new tab) Which allows users to visualize the orbit of asteroids around the sun and their close flyby of the Earth. The toolkit allows the general public to see how scientists study medium-sized near-Earth object asteroids such as 2015 RN35 which, while not in danger of colliding with Earth for at least 100 years, can help gather information about similarly sized hazardous objects (PHOs).
Although these do not pose the same level of danger as huge “planet killer asteroids” like the one that struck our planet 65 million years ago and wiped out more than half of its species including the dinosaurs, medium-sized asteroids can wreak havoc. on a local level if they were to hit the ground running.
Read more: Asteroid apocalypse: How big is a space rock to end human civilization?
This means that while 2015 RN35 will not impact Earth, the European Space Agency is taking the opportunity to make sure its close approach has an impact on the message that asteroid discovery and planetary defense is something we should all be involved in.
Editor’s note: If you take a picture of the Christmas asteroid 2015 RN35 And if you’d like to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, name, and location to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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