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Sneaky New Asteroid Will Skim Safely by This Week: How to Watch

Asteroid 2022 NF is at least as big as a giraffe and was just spotted on July 4.

Chart shows Earth in the middle, the orbit of the moon as a line in gray and the path of asteroid 2022 NF in red.
The NASA JPL close approach viewer shows Earth, the orbit of the moon and the path of asteroid 2022 NF (in red).
NASA JPL CNEOS

There's a new kid on the space block. Asteroid 2022 NF was first spotted on Monday and will make a close (but totally safe) approach to our planet on Thursday. Near-Earth asteroids are discovered all the time, particularly sneaky small ones that have escaped previous observation. 

The asteroid is around 18 to 40 feet (5.5 to 12 meters) across, so that's roughly between the size of an adult giraffe and a long shipping container. At its closest, it will come to within around 56,000 miles (90,000 kilometers) of Earth. That's nearby, but it's nothing to sweat about.

The Virtual Telescope Project will follow along with the asteroid's visitation with a live viewing starting at 2 p.m. PT on Wednesday, July 6. VTP founder Gianluca Masi is calling it an "extremely close encounter" at 23% of the average lunar distance. 

If you haven't tuned in for a VTP asteroid viewing before, it's good to know what to expect. This is a small asteroid moving at a fast clip. It will look like a dot of light against a field of stars. What's impressive is that it can be tracked and livestreamed, giving people around the world a shared experience of space.

The discovery of dainty 2022 NF is a testament to improvements in asteroid detection in recent years. The NASA JPL Center for Near Earth Object Studies tracks thousands of asteroids and keeps an eye on our space neighborhood for any possible threats. So far, things are looking good for the near future, especially after asteroid 2021 QM1 was recently removed from a risk list after scientists ruled out a possible 2052 impact. 

As you navigate the asteroid headlines, here's our primer on how to know when to worry and when to just say, "Oh cool, another asteroid!"