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On January 26th Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) 2004 BL86, discovered in 2004 by NASA collaboration project LINEAR, will pass closer to Earth than at any time since its discovery over 10 years ago at just 3.1 lunar distances, or approximately 740,000 miles away. Out of all the known NEAs, this one, at an estimated 1/2 of a kilometer in size, or approximately 5 American football fields, is the brightest we know of that will pass this close to Earth for the next twelve years. According to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) catalog, the next known asteroid of this brightness to pass within 3 lunar distances of Earth will be Asteroid 1999 AN10 on August 7th of 2027.

Slooh will cover the flyby of Asteroid 2004 BL86 live on Monday, January 26th starting at 8:00 AM PST / 11:00 AM EST / 16:00 UTC – International Times: goo.gl/xnxBG6. Slooh will broadcast the event live from telescopes situated in Australia.

Viewers can watch the live asteroid webcast free on Slooh.com. The image stream will be accompanied by discussions led by Slooh host Will Gater, Slooh astronomer Bob Berman, and special guests including Dr. Paul Chodas, manager of JPL’S Near-Earth Object Program Office, and Dr. Lance Benner, NASA Research Scientist. Viewers can follow updates on the show and ask questions to be answered live on air by using the Twitter hashtag #SloohBL86.

Slooh will cover the flyby of Asteroid 2004 BL86 live on Monday, January 26th starting at 8:00 AM PST / 11:00 AM EST / 16:00 UTC – International Times: goo.gl/xnxBG6. Slooh will broadcast the event live from telescopes situated in Australia.

Slooh routinely tracks Near-Earth Objects for the general public to view live (both asteroids and comets) that are large enough and near enough to our planet that they are worth keeping an eye on. Slooh’s live broadcasts have attracted millions of viewers, and Slooh has become a leading voice to help ensure that public awareness of Near-Earth Asteroids does not wane.

Slooh recently announced a partnership with NASA, as part of the Asteroid Grand Challenge, to engage citizen scientists to track and characterize Near-Earth Asteroids using Slooh’s network of observatories. Slooh’s citizen scientists have the unique opportunity to access professional telescope equipment at world class sites. They can and do use this equipment to participate in the global challenge to find all asteroids hazardous to human populations. As part of Slooh’s NEA tracking program, citizen scientists have been watching Asteroid 2004 BL86 and making regular submissions to a major data repository for NEA observations – The Minor Planet Center – in order to more accurately determine its orbit.

NEA 2004 BL86 is an eye-opening reminder of the potential risks of asteroid impacts and the importance of acquiring and tracking asteroid orbits. It is estimated that while 90 percent of the kilometer plus sized asteroids have been discovered, only 30% of the 140 meter-sized NEAs have been found, with less than 1 percent of the 30-meter sized NEAs having been detected. Even a 30-meter sized asteroid could cause significant damage to a major city, which is why entities like Slooh and NASA keep a conscientious eye on the nearby objects in the night sky.

Says Paul Chodas, “The close approach of 2004 BL86 will provide a great opportunity for astronomers to observe a large asteroid up close and personal; the radar images, in particular, should be just amazing. Since we’ve been tracking the asteroid for 11 years, we know its orbit really well, and we know it will not approach our planet this close again for at least a couple centuries. This is a rare opportunity for some great science!”