There's a lot of talk at the Olympics about history as athletes try to outdo their predecessors on the slopes, ice, and luge tracks in Sochi. It seems that Mother Nature herself wants to get in the game too, because She's hurling a huge asteroid at our planet almost a year to the day a space rock, measuring 65 feet in diameter, slammed into Russia. The incident released the energy equivalent to 20-plus atomic bombs.
No life was lost in the February 15, 2013, ordeal, but it did cause injuries and significant property damage in the area.
This latest Earth-bound asteroid, named 2000 EM26 and known as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), is due to be at its closest to Earth tonight. But even at that, it will still be about 8.8 times farther away than the Earth's moon. That's good news because this asteroid is about 13 times as big as the one that struck Chelyabinsk. With a diameter of 885 feet, it's approximately three football fields around and is traveling at about 27,000 mph.
But just because 2000 EM26 is going to miss Earth doesn't mean it won't be thrilling. If you want to watch it whiz by, tune in to Slooh.com, which will broadcast the near-miss starting at 6 p.m. PT. Slooh specializes in broadcasting cosmic events, often using images from its robotic telescopes at its flagship observatory on Mount Teide in the Canary Islands, which will be the source of Monday's live stream.
The sky show will be accompanied by discussions led by Slooh host and astronomer Bob Berman; Slooh technical director Paul Cox; and special guest Mark Boslough, an expert on planetary impacts and global catastrophes. You can tune in either on Slooh's Web site or by downloading an app to your iPad. I recommend using your iPad, because in case the astronomers got it wrong and the asteroid really is going to hit Earth, you can hold it over your head as a shield.