There is no question that I, like many of you, am fascinated by the incredible mystery and vastness of the night sky. In fact, celestial events are some of those "little life moments" that I get most excited about and I love to go stargazing on a clear night.

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Keeping My Eye on the Sky

I try to pay attention to what types of celestial events will be happening. In January, there were reports in nine different state of a "fireball" shooting across the sky that officials dubbed a meteor. In late March-early April, we had the opportunity to see Venus, Mars, and Saturn with the naked eye and of course there is the upcoming total solar eclipse coming up in 2024 with Evansville in the path of totality.

Reports of a Fireball Over Evansville

I'm sure by now you can figure that I have my finger on the pulse of what is going on in the sky. Call it nerdiness, or whatever but I just love the way that looking at the night sky has a way of making the worries of the world seem smaller and far less significant. Even with as much as I follow what is going on in the sky, I missed what was reportedly spotted over Evansville last night.

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Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash
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It Was Captured on Camera

There have been a number of reports of a fireball moving through the sky over Evansville around 8:47 pm last night, according to Evansville Watch, and several people were even able to capture it on their security cameras. At this point, I have not seen any official word on if what was seen was a meteor or an astroid but if I find out, I will update here.

The Difference Between a Meteor and an Astroid

If you have ever wondered the difference between an astroid and a meteor or even a metoerite is, you're in luck! I have done some digging and now you, and I, will wonder no more. According to Psy.org, an astroid and a meteoroid are both rocks orbiting the sun. One is just larger than the other. As for the difference between a meteor and a meteorite, while both are bits of a meteor or astroid that have entered Earth's atmosphere, one burns out and one actually makes contact with the planet. Psy.org describes them as,

  • Asteroid: a large rocky body in space, in orbit around the Sun.
  • Meteoroid: much smaller rocks or particles in orbit around the Sun.
  • Meteor: If a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere and vaporizes, it becomes a meteor, which is often called a shooting star.
  • Meteorite: If a small asteroid or large meteoroid survives its fiery passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands on Earth's surface, it is then called a meteorite.

An Astroid the Size of Mount Everest

While I was nerding out doing some research about the fireball seen in the sky last night, I came across an interesting resource from NASA and after a little poking around and some additional digging via Google, I discovered that there is an astroid the size of Mount Everest that is expected to pass Earth in May.

7335 (1989 JA) - "A Midsized Astroid"

Known scientifically as JA 1989, this Apollo-class astroid is quite large with a diameter of 1.8 kilometers (1.2 miles). That is basically the length of Green River Road between Morgan Avenue and the Lloyd Expressway here in Evansville.

Apollo-Class Astroid

What is an Apollo-class astroid? It is an astroid thats orbit passes through the orbit of the earth. While only considered to be a "midsized astroid" according to SpaceReference.org, it is still large enough to be comparative in size to Mount Everest.

How Close to Earth Will It Get?

While considered to be a midsized astroid, SpaceReference. org also says JA1989 is also considered to be a "Potentially Hazardous Astroid," due to its proximatey to Earth at its closest point in orbit as it will pass within 4,024,749 kilometers of Earth. That equates to approximately 2.5 million miles. So to put that into some perspective for you, if you drove the entire circumfrance of the Earth, you would only drive 24,901 miles. You would basically have to drive around the equator 100 times to drive the distance that will span between Earth and JA 1989 at its closest point to our planet but even still, scientist consider it to be dangerous.

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Photo by NASA on Unsplash
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When Will JA 1989 Pass Earth?

As it turns out, JA 1989 actually makes a full orbit around the sun every 861 days but how often does it pass by Earth? It will pass near Earth's orbit on the following dates according to SpaceRerence.org,

  • May 27, 2022
  • June 23, 2055
  • May 20, 2081
  • May 21, 2114
  • June 4, 2154
  • May 21, 2187

While JA 1989 will pass several times over the next 165 years but 2022 will be the closest that it gets to Earth. So what does this mean for you and me? Honestly, I doubt very little but I'm no rocket scientist... I just write articles and talk on the radio. To learn more about space and space exploration, visit NASA.gov.

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