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Asteroid Will Zoom Within Moon's Orbit: Look for It Online

<p>An asteroid is due to come within the orbit of the moon on Wednesday, and you just might be able to watch it zoom past us online.</p>
Image: 2014 DX110
A NASA diagram shows the asteroid 2014 DX110's orbit through the inner solar system.NASA / JPL-Caltech

An asteroid at least as big as the one that blew up over Russia last year is coming within the orbit of the moon on Wednesday. Astronomers say there's no chance it'll hit us, but you just might be able to watch it zoom by online.

The space rock known as 2014 DX110 is due to make its closest approach at about 4 p.m. ET — at a distance of about 216,000 miles (345,600 kilometers), or roughly 90 percent of the moon's orbital distance.

The passing asteroid is thought to be 60 to 140 feet (19 to 43 meters) wide. Sixty feet is the estimated width of the asteroid that broke apart roughly 20 miles (30 kilometers) above Chelyabinsk on Feb. 15, 2013, injuring hundreds of people.

The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0, based in Italy, will air a webcast about 2014 DX110 at 3:30 p.m. ET. also will try to track the asteroid with its telescope in the Canary islands, starting at 4 p.m. ET, for a program that will be broadcast via Slooh's website and iPad app. However, Slooh's Patrick Paolucci said "there is a high probability we will not capture the asteroid during the broadcast," due to uncertainties about the asteroid's position.

Such uncertainties foiled Slooh's efforts last month to spot a different asteroid known as 2000 EM26, or "Moby Dick." That asteroid is now effectively lost to astronomers.

Slooh's host and observatory director, Paul Cox, said his company plans to help track other near-Earth asteroids during future close encounters. "As we've seen with Moby Dick, all the effort that went into its discovery is worthless unless follow-up observations are made to accurately determine their orbits for the future," Cox said.

So Slooh is going to try again with a different space rock. Asteroid 2014 CU13, which is 390 to 850 feet wide (120 to 260 meters) wide, is due to pass within eight lunar distances of Earth next Tuesday. Slooh's program about 2014 CU13 begins at 10 p.m. ET Sunday.

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated when 2014 CU13 would make its closest approach to Earth.