If Santa can’t cope with the delivery of gifts this Christmas, Earthmen will nonetheless not be left without presents. Astronomers have announced two appealing celestial events for December 24 that would even please the Grinch: a flyby of a massive asteroid near the Earth, and a Christmas Eve full moon, the last full moon for 2015.
An enormous asteroid will zoom by the Earth on Christmas Eve, and will be visible to telescopes, various media reported. Although the cosmic body, dubbed 2003 SD220 (or 163899) is roughly three kilometers in length (1.5 miles) and is moving through the space at the speed of 27 km (5 miles) per second, astronomers say it poses no threat to our planet. The asteroid will not strike our planet, nor will it somehow trigger earthquakes in its speedy proximity.
“There's no scientific evidence that an asteroid's flyby can cause any seismic activity, unless it collides with Earth, but — in this case — that clearly will not be the case," Eddie Irizarry, a NASA scientist, wrote for Earthsky.org.
NASA scientists said no Earth impacts by celestial bodies are likely to occur in next 200 years, though a near miss with asteroid Aphophis is predicted in April 2029.
At its closes approach, 2003 SD220 will swing by at a distance 28 times greater than the distance between the Earth and the moon, or almost 6.7 million miles.
“[Y]ou could expect several such encounters with objects of that sort of size every year—so maybe every couple of months you would get one coming that close, and of the same size,” Mark Bailey, a director of Northern Ireland’s Armagh Observatory said to AFP.
To observe the occasion, you will need a telescope. If you miss this flyby, don’t worry, the next space rock to miss us closely will occur relatively soon, in December 2018, according to NASA.
Also on Christmas, there will be another reason to stay up – or to get up really early — as a full moon will occur on this date for the first time in 38 years. The event is a pretty rare; the next Christmas full moon will not happen until 2034.