Watch Out for That Asteroid: Earth in a Cosmic Shooting Gallery

JPL-Caltech/NASA(NEW YORK) — Heads up, Earthlings. We live in a cosmic shooting gallery with a huge asteroid headed our way this weekend.

It will only be a close call — but close enough to remind us how vulnerable we are to asteroids hurtling through space.

This weekend, an asteroid just discovered last week will fly between Earth and the Moon — just 25,000 miles away from our planet. It is the size of a house and will fly frighteningly close to the orbit of Earth’s satellites, which provide vital communications.

This asteroid, named 2014 RC, will be close, but it won’t be the closest recent flyby. Astroid 2012DA 14 missed Earth by a measly 17,200 miles in February 2013.

That same day, a completely unexpected meteor slammed into Cherlyabinsk Russia, its stunning impact captured on dozens of cameras.

Former astronaut Ed Lu may seem like an unlikely asteroid hunter, but the unexpected asteroid encounters prompted his B612 Foundation to come up with a plan to spot them before its too late.

“We have the evidence these meteors have, and will continue to, hit our planet,” he said. “What we need to do is find them first, and alter their orbit.”

The close visit by 2014 RC is hardly a surprise because 11,000 near-Earth objects have been discovered in Earth’s neighborhood, with thousands more lurking undiscovered.

The orbit of this weekend’s asteroid will take it over Australia and New Zealand, so it won’t be visible north of the equator.

But there is a consolation prize: A solar flare will deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field, which means a spectacular display of auroras.

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