Gianluca Masi / Virtual Telescope Project
This image shows the asteroid 2012 QG42 in the crosshairs on Sept. 6, as seen using the Planewave 17-inch telescope, part of the Virtual Telescope Project. The telescope was tracking the fast apparent motion of the asteroid against the background of distant stars, which show up as streaks in this image.
updated 9/12/2012 11:13:27 PM ET 2012-09-13T03:13:27

A newfound asteroid that may be the size of three football fields will whiz by Earth on Thursday, and you can watch the close encounter live online.

Asteroid 2012 QG42 is between 625 feet and 1,400 feet wide (190 to 430 meters) and was first spotted by scientists last month. Researchers say the space rock has no chance of hitting Earth when it makes its closest approach on Thursday.

The asteroid will pass by at a safe distance of about 7.5 times the Earth-moon distance. The moon is, on average, about 238,000 miles from Earth.

Asteroid 2012 QG42 is, however, listed as a "potentially hazardous asteroid" by the Minor Planet Center at Cambridge, Mass., meaning it may pose a threat in the future.

At least two online observatories are tracking the asteroid's pass by Earth.

The Virtual Telescope Project, run by astronomer Gianluca Masi in Italy, is providing a live video stream here: http://www.virtualtelescope.eu/webtv/

The project has been tracking asteroid 2012 QG42 since last week and posting images online.

On Thursday, the Slooh Space Camera night sky observing website will provide a live view of asteroid 2012 QG42's closest approach in a webcast starting at 7 p.m. ET, offering views from at least one of its telescopes at its observatory in the Canary Islands, off the west coast of Africa. You can tune into the Slooh webcast by visiting the group's website here: http://www.slooh.com

Asteroid 2012 QG42's flyby comes a few months after another recently discovered space rock, asteroid 2012 LZ1, made a close approach to Earth.

"Near Earth Objects have been whizzing past us lately, undetected until they have been practically on top of us. This illustrates the need for continued and improved monitoring for our own future safety," Bob Berman, a Slooh editor and Astronomy Magazine columnist, said in a statement. "It is not a question of if, but when such an object will hit us, and how large and fast it may be going."

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Berman added that to observe near-Earth asteroids like the one passing by on Thursday "provides instruction and perhaps motivation to keep up our guard, as well as a sense of relief as it speeds safely past at a mere one-fifteenth the distance to the nearest planets."

Berman will join Slooh president Patrick Paolucci and Slooh engineer Paul Cox to provide commentary during the organization's webcast.

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Interactive: Below the belt

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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