February 1, 2023

Look Up and Watch Asteroid 1994 PC1 Fly Past Earth This Week

The asteroid was found on the night of August 9th, 1994 by astronomer Robert McNaught observing from the Siding Spring Observatory. The Apollo asteroid is an Earth-crosser, with a perihelion interior to our own at 0.9 Astronomical Units (AU) from the Sun, and an aphelion out in the asteroid belt at 1.8 AU, with an orbital period of 572 days.
The orbit of asteroid 1994 PC1. Credit: NASA/JPL
Enjoyable truth: recalling through sky plates, 1994 PC1 in fact turns up in images all the method back to 1974.
1994 PC1 is a S-class stony-type asteroid, and is just slightly bigger than another popular NEO asteroid 101955 Bennu the target of NASAs Osiris-Rex sample return objective, which returns to Earth with its valuable cargo late next year.
Todays pass is the closest for the asteroid since January 17, 1933 (pre-discovery) at 0.00752 AU, and the closest for the next 2 centuries, although the hand down January 18, 2105 is almost as close, at 0.01556 AU.
A closeup of Tuedays flyby. Credit: NASA/JPL.
Hunting the Asteroid
This weeks close approach gives observers a chance to see the asteroid for themselves. At its closest on the night of January 18th at 21:51 Universal Time (UT), 1994 PC1 will be straddling on the Cetus/Pisces border and moving at a blistering 2 degrees an hour (covering an area of sky four times the size of tonights Full Moon, per hour) or 2 arc minutes a minute. Thats quick sufficient to see the movement of the rapid asteroid versus the starry background after enjoying it at the eyepiece for just a minute or 2. At its brightest, 1994 PC1 ought to flirt with magnitude +9 approximately, making it easily noticeable with a small telescope or maybe, binoculars.
I remember the adventure of seeing asteroid 4179 Toutatis on its close pass in 2004. That passage was really similar to todays, watching as the area rock silently crept across the stellar background.
The bright side is, you can begin hunting for 1994 PC1 tonight: the asteroid is still a decent +12 th magnitude plus on either eve or after closest method, January 17th or January 19th. Also, unlike closer passes, parallax versus observer place wont play too much of an element in the asteroids real position in the sky.
To capture it, youll need a telescope capable of precisely pointing at collaborates in ideal ascension and declination. You can get these ephemerides for your time and location by inputting 1994 PC1 at NASA/JPL Horizons website.
The path of the asteroid for the last 12 hours of January 17th. Credit: Starry Night.
The night of Monday, January 17th discovers asteroid 1994 PC1 low to the south at sunset on the border of the southern hemisphere constellations of Fornax and Eridanus. Hard, though not a difficult target for North American observers.
The 24 hour path of asteroid 1994 PC1 for January 18th, in one hour increments. Credit: Starry Night.
The essential night of Tuesday, January 18th sees the asteroid making its closest pass by Earth for this century. Basing on the surface area of the asteroid Tuesday night, you d see the Earth as a 22 half-full disk, a little smaller sized than a Full Moon. Though the exact time of closest approach favors Africa and European longitudes, North America also gets an excellent take a look at sunset. Another excellent approach to tracking the asteroid is to know when its going to pass near an intense star, stake out the position, and watch at the suitable time. As soon as such opportunity takes place in the hours around 21:05 UT Tuesday night, when 1994 PC1 passes 43 from the +3.8 magnitude star Alrescha (Alpha Piscium).
A close up of the pass near Alrescha (Alpha Piscium) from 21:02 to 21:29 UT. Credit: Starry Night.
Wednesday night January 19th sees the asteroid much further north in the constellation Andromeda. Now nearly 1.7 million miles far-off, Wednesday likewise has the benefit of offering a slim window for viewing after golden ends, and prior to the waning gibbous Moon increases.
The celestial course of asteroid 1994 PC1 through Wednesday, January 19th. Credit: Starry Night.
Clouded out? Astronomer Gianluca Masi and the Virtual Telescope Project has you covered, with a live webcast following 1994 PC1 beginning at 20:00 UT on the 18th.
Fortunately, asteroid 1994 PC1 wont provide us the very same doomday scenario as the recent comedy Look Up … simply a good program. All the best and clear skies on your quest to spot asteroid 1994 PC1.
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We have such a chance coming right up on the night of Tuesday, January 18th, when 1.1-kilometer asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 passes 1.23 million miles (1.98 million kilometers) from the Earth. The asteroid was discovered on the night of August 9th, 1994 by astronomer Robert McNaught observing from the Siding Spring Observatory. The Apollo asteroid is an Earth-crosser, with a perihelion interior to our own at 0.9 Astronomical Units (AU) from the Sun, and an aphelion out in the asteroid belt at 1.8 AU, with an orbital period of 572 days. The key night of Tuesday, January 18th sees the asteroid making its closest pass by Earth for this century. Standing on the surface of the asteroid Tuesday night, you d see the Earth as a 22 half-full disk, somewhat smaller sized than a Full Moon.

This weeks apparition of asteroid 1994 PC1 offers observers a possibility to see a space rock moving in actual time.
In a sluggish moving universe, asteroids provide us a rare opportunity to see things relocating actual time. We have such an opportunity coming right up on the night of Tuesday, January 18th, when 1.1-kilometer asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 passes 1.23 million miles (1.98 million kilometers) from the Earth. This is about five times the range from the Earth to the Moon, and simply a shade over the distance to the anti-sunward Earth-Sun Lagrange 2 point, soon to be the home of the James Webb Space Telescope.

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