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A Close-Up Of Celestial Activity

While East Coasters are bracing for meteorological drama, some across the country are gazing farther into the sky.

An asteroid about a third of a mile in diameter is en route to breeze by Earth tonight, though we’re assured it poses no threat to Earthlings.

Meanwhile, astronomers are buzzing over new images from the Rosetta comet mission. Kelly Beatty, senior editor at Sky & Telescope, sheds some light on the excitement around the asteroid and the new images from space.

Guest

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The path of asteroid 2004 BL86 on January 26-27 carries it northward among the winter stars and makes it well positioned for viewing with a backyard telescope. Eastern Standard Time is shown, so be sure to make a time-zone correction for your location. (Sky & Telescope diagram)
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The path of asteroid 2004 BL86 on January 26-27 carries it northward among the winter stars and makes it well positioned for viewing with a backyard telescope. Eastern Standard Time is shown, so be sure to make a time-zone correction for your location. (Sky & Telescope diagram)
Almost exactly when it becomes brightest (about 9th magnitude), asteroid 2004 BL86 skirts very close to the Beehive Cluster, M44. The faintest stars in this chart are magnitude 9.2, and the dashed circle is 1½° across. Tick marks along the path are given in Universal Time. (Sky & Telescope diagram)
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Almost exactly when it becomes brightest (about 9th magnitude), asteroid 2004 BL86 skirts very close to the Beehive Cluster, M44. The faintest stars in this chart are magnitude 9.2, and the dashed circle is 1½° across. Tick marks along the path are given in Universal Time. (Sky & Telescope diagram)