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Newfound “Pitbull” Asteroid Will Zip By Earth on Sunday

Twice the size of the space shuttle, asteroid DA14 will fly between the Earth and many orbiting communication satellites on Feb.15, 2013. Courtesy of JPL/NASA
Twice the size of the space shuttle, asteroid DA14 flew between the Earth and many orbiting communication satellites on February 15, 2013. This week we will see another space rock swing by, skimming just outside of our ring of satellites. Courtesy of JPL/NASA

Good news, folks: The world won’t end on Sunday, when an asteroid nicknamed “Pitbull” will zip past Earth. But asteroid 2014 RC will provide some virtual sky-watching drama for fans of celestial flybys. (Related: “Asteroids and Comets.”)

Discovered independently by two different observatory teams on August 31, the 60-foot-wide (20 meters) space rock will come closest to Earth at 2:18 p.m. EDT (11:18 a.m. PDT/18:18 UTC) on September 7, over New Zealand, according to NASA. At its closest, the space rock will be about 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) away, one-tenth of the distance to the moon.

Asteroid 2014 RC passing Earth
This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2014 RC past Earth on September 7, 2014. At time of closest approach, the space rock will be about one-tenth of the distance between the Earth and moon. Times indicated on the graphic are given in Universal Time. Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

The asteroid will skirt just outside of the orbital height of geosynchronous satellites. This was not the case with another cosmic close call, when asteroid DA14 paid a visit on February 15, 2013. That office-building-size rock raced past Earth, coming as close as 17,168 miles (27,630 kilometers), well within the orbits of many communication satellites.

“While this celestial object does not appear to pose any threat to Earth or satellites, its close approach creates a unique opportunity for researchers to observe and learn more about asteroids,” the space agency said in a statement. Astronomers will track the satellite for its chances of later hitting Earth.

Virtual Vision

At its brightest, Pitbull will reach magnitude 11.5, meaning it will be visible only through backyard telescopes with at least medium-size mirrors (6 to 8 inches, or 15 to 20 centimeters).

However, everyone around the world can join NASA and astronomy outreach venture Slooh as they stream live online views of the asteroid’s near-approach on Saturday, September 6, with a special live show on Slooh.com, free to the public, starting at 7 p.m. PDT/10 p.m. EDT/02:00 UTC (9/7).

Thankfully, astronomers have ruled out any chance for a collision with Pitbull for the foreseeable future. However, if it did ever impact Earth, the consequences would be greater than what we saw in the Siberian city of Chelyabinsk last year. That unexpected asteroid was approximately 65 feet (20 meters) in diameter and exploded 18 miles (29 kilometers) above Siberia, releasing the equivalent energy of more than 20 atomic bombs (approximately 460 kilotons of TNT).

The Siberian event caused over a thousand injuries, damaged thousands of buildings, and shattered countless windows due to the resulting blast wave.

Over 11,000 near-Earth objects have been discovered and are being tracked by NASA as potentially hazardous objects.

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.






  1. joshua cmock
    September 8, 2014, 12:56 pm

    will the asteroid hit the earth? 😕

  2. Artur Freire Vieira
    September 8, 2014, 9:52 am

    Não assisti

  3. Jo
    September 7, 2014, 5:21 pm

    impact in Managua, Nicaragua close to the aiprport

  4. Jo
    September 7, 2014, 5:20 pm

    I’m reading the news that there was a meteorite impact yesterday Sept 6 at 11:04 local time, at leas that is the official version of a mysterious explosion. Is there any relationship?

  5. Rob
    September 7, 2014, 10:23 am

    Does this asteroid pose any threat to the moon? I know we track objects that threaten earth but do we do the same for the moon? A significant change in the moon’s orbit or distance from the earth could mean our destruction.

  6. Abraham Jos
    Bangalore, India.
    September 7, 2014, 10:19 am

    I cant understand how the scientists can so audaciously claim things like “nothing is going to happen” when storms and underground volcanoes which are under their constant monitoring abruptly change route and intensity?

    The recent Icelandic volcano movement is a recent example. How then can you guys be so sure of the route of something that is so out of reach from you guys.

    Its silly to be audacious when you are not in control…!

  7. Tosin Oluwo
    September 7, 2014, 9:29 am

    I have thought as much too of such ideas and am so sure of the possibilities of actualising this because, whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve.


  8. Mohammad Ayub
    Mardan, KPK, Pakistan.
    September 7, 2014, 3:44 am

    This might have been happened in the past. Hope this won’t be a danger to planet earth even than the expert are in better position to know the future rout of this asteriod.

  9. jeff slusher
    columbus , OH
    September 6, 2014, 10:50 pm

    im in Columbus and ive seen a lot of you can see this or that but its a big sky how bout a direction to point the telescope?

  10. Jeff
    Dana Point, Ca
    September 6, 2014, 8:23 pm

    Where is it glancing by? Siberia, US, , Europe, where? I can’t find the trajectory. Not that it matters anyway. Right?

  11. Bilal Haider
    September 6, 2014, 1:35 pm

    lets don’t play with these things.
    there is lots of things in earth to be discovered..

  12. Gregory Harold tart
    360 Tart town rd.
    September 6, 2014, 9:42 am

    Will any other small one going to hit Russia like a few months ago or any were esle

  13. Nancy Chavez
    interstate 10 Arizona USA
    September 6, 2014, 8:31 am

    Sept 16 2013. 10:30 pm my husband and I were driving at aprox. Mile marker 194 a giant red hot ball of fire fell really close to the hwy. It was about 2 1/2 ft long and 12 in around. It was dropping straight do straight down like a red hot stove pipe. It was like a giant spot light coming down from the sky

    It light up the whole night area like lightning that stayed on. The light slowly descended to the ground. Went behind the pile of rock by the highway. THEN IT WAS DARK AGAIN.


    Everyone tells me that the government knows the exactly the spot the Meteor landed. DO THEY????



  14. Emilio Costa
    Madrid, Spain
    September 5, 2014, 5:53 pm

    Dwayne, awesome idea! Too bad “Pitbull” has just been noticed 5 days ago, so no time to prepare any net-device to fish it. However great idea to attract a passing by asteroid and use it as a artificial satellite… 😉

  15. Dr_Glickman
    SoCal (shakin'n bakin)
    September 5, 2014, 3:08 pm

    With a typical asteroid density between granite and iron, Pitbull tips the scales at about a hefty 20 million lbs. That would be a huge project to reel that puppy down to terra firma. Considering we don’t even have funding for the Space Shuttle and with wars, plagues and famine on earth; Pitbull may need to take a back seat for now, looks like. I could be wrong.

  16. Scott Jones
    September 5, 2014, 2:56 pm

    I think they should land a pod on it of some sort, let it pass our orbit and into space, then use the pod to take photos of other planets it flies past.

  17. Avwerosuo
    September 5, 2014, 1:08 pm

    I have a question what prevents the asteroid from being captured by the earth magnetic field?

  18. Mike
    United Kingdom
    September 5, 2014, 12:41 pm

    If its meant to happen, let it happen

    United States
    September 5, 2014, 12:35 pm

    I would like to see a scientific instruments package delivered to this object, where it could either attach itself or remain in orbit, to follow the orbit of this asteroid, perhaps to hitch a ride to another part of our solar system.

  20. Jaon
    September 5, 2014, 11:58 am

    If anything they should land a craft on the rock that can drill some samples and launch itself back to earth.

  21. allison
    September 5, 2014, 11:50 am

    Will it be visible from North America when at its brightest, or at least when brighter than magnitude 13.0 or thereabouts?

  22. Dwayne LaGrou
    Lapeer, Michigan
    September 4, 2014, 6:53 pm

    I think it would be a great idea to launch a space vehicle capable of attaching itself or a sling or any other such device and attempt to bring an asteroid such as this one into orbit around Earth for further study and maybe a sample return mission. That way we can learn if these would be able to either teach us more about what’s roaming around in space or even mine it for rare minerals. It could even be sequestered in a safe orbit and used as building material for future space platforms. The possible uses are incredible and it beats having to launch building material from the surface. Anyone else have any ideas?!