April 13, 2017 / Modified apr 20, 2017 4:31 p.m.

Fast and Bright Asteroid to Near Earth Next Week

The Tucson-discovered space rock will be studied by astronomers all over the world for its properties.

This computer-generated image depicts the flyby of asteroid 2014 JO25. The asteroid will safely fly past Earth on April 19 at a distance of about 1.1 million miles. Via: NASA

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A large asteroid discovered at Mount Lemmon’s observatory will approach Earth next week, an opportunity that could provide clues to the space rock’s density and physical properties, its discoverer said.

Astronomer Al Grauer has been watching out for near-Earth objects for 15 years. The one he spotted three years ago will pass more than 1 million miles from Earth Wednesday on its way around the sun toward Jupiter.

"It was the brightest, fastest asteroid I'd ever seen," Grauer said.

The asteroid is called 2014 JO25. It’s a large rock, about four-tenths of a mile across. Its surface is twice as reflective as the moon’s.

Grauer is an observer with the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey, part of NASA’s near-Earth object search program. He says astronomers around the world will study this asteroid.

“The reason this is important is that if we ever find one that is on a collision course with Earth, it’ll be very important for us to know what it’s made out of, what its density is, a lot of its physical properties,” he said.

NASA's near-Earth object program is part of space agency's planetary defense office.

The asteroid passing Earth next week may be visible with a small telescope. Grauer said you can see it around 5 a.m. Wednesday in the northern sky near the Little Dipper, then moving south and west at a high rate of speed.

Listen to Grauer talk about his discovery of 2014 JO25.

Arizona Science Desk
This story is from the Arizona Science Desk, a collaborative of the state's public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Arizona Science Desk.
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