STOCK asteroid
Image Credit: Pixabay

Abu Dhabi: Earth is set to witness a rare astronomical event on Saturday, June 29, 2024, as the asteroid designated 2024 MK will pass very close to our planet.

At exactly 01:41 pm GMT, the asteroid will be at a distance of only 295,000 km from Earth, which is roughly two-thirds of the distance from the Earth to the moon. Discovered on June 16, this potentially hazardous asteroid measures 187 meters in diameter.

What makes this event particularly noteworthy is the asteroid's brightness. As it approaches Earth, it will reach a magnitude of 8.6, making it visible with a simple telescope if its position in the sky is known.

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Such brightness from a near-Earth asteroid has not been observed in over 12 years, and a similar event is not expected until 2028. The asteroid will be traveling at an astonishing speed of 34,000 kilometers per hour, appearing to move 6.5 degrees per hour across the sky—13 times faster than the moon!

On June 29, the asteroid will traverse several star constellations, starting the day in the "Lepus" constellation, then moving through "Sculptor," "Scorpius," "Sagittarius," "Aquila," "Aquarius," "Delphinus," and finally "Pegasus."

How to spot it

For observers in the Arab region, the asteroid will be visible after nightfall, around 05:30 pm GMT, when its brightness will diminish to magnitude 10, requiring a small telescope to see it.

This significant celestial event has garnered global interest, with numerous international entities planning to broadcast the event live. The Seal Observatory of the International Astronomical Center will participate alongside other international observatories in monitoring this asteroid as part of a program overseen by the renowned Catalina Observatory.

To date, the Seal Observatory has contributed to the confirmation of over 30 asteroids, several of which fall into the near-Earth object (NEO) category.

There is substantial international concern regarding these asteroids due to the potential danger they pose if a collision with Earth were to occur.

Astronomers continuously track and determine the positions of these objects to update and correct their orbits, especially when gravitational influences from other celestial bodies, such as Jupiter, might alter their paths..