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Massive asteroid dubbed ‘The Rock' to fly unusually close to Earth this week

by: Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Updated:

Space junkies rejoice — the gargantuan 2014 JO25 asteroid, nicknamed “The Rock,” will be making an uncomfortably close approach to Earth this week.

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Scientists say the 2,000 foot-wide space rock, given its nickname for being as massive as the Rock of Gibraltar (or, to some, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), will fly safely past Earth on Wednesday, April 19, at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers). That’s about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

Though it is expected to be very close to Earth for an asteroid of its size, there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with the planet, according to NASA, whose scientists partnered with the Catalina Sky Survey to discover the space rock three years ago.

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It will be “The Rock’s” closest approach to Earth in at least 400 years and will be its closest approach for at least the next 500 years.

The upcoming encounter with Earth is also the closest by any known asteroid of its size or larger and the next known encounter of something this size won’t occur until 2027, NASA scientists said in a news release.

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How and when to watch:

The asteroid will fly to Earth from the direction of the sun and will be visible in the night sky after April 19.

It will be closest to our home planet at approximately 8 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

Because the asteroid isn’t very bright, you’ll need a small-optical telescope to see it at night.

According to Sky and Telescope, the asteroid will cover half the sky in under 30 minutes during early evening hours on April 19 and it’ll be fast enough to see it fly across the field of view in real time.

After one or two nights, 2014 JO25 will fade as the distance from Earth increases.

Also in the sky around the same time, according to NASA, will be the comet PanSTARRS — and it’ll be visible in the sky at dawn with binoculars or a small telescope.