A 36-foot asteroid will whiz past Earth today, but poses no danger of hitting us, astronomers say.
The space rock, which is relatively small, is known as 2012 BX34. According to Space.com, it is due to pass within about 37,000 kilometers of Earth – less than a fifth of the distance between us and the Moon.
That makes it "one of the closest approaches recorded," Gareth Williams of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told the BBC:
"It makes it in to the top 20 closest approaches, but it's sufficiently far away [...] that there's absolutely no chance of it hitting us."
Asteroid 2012 BX34 will remain far above the Earth's atmosphere, Williams said, so there is no danger of it breaking up and scattering debris.
It's expected to make its closest approach at around 11:00 AM EST.
The asteroid won't be visible to the naked eye, but can be spotted using telescopes. According to Spaceweather.com's forecast:
Advanced amateur astronomers might be able to observe the flyby as the bus-sized asteroid brightens to 14th magnitude just before closest approach on Jan. 27 at 15:30 UT.
This video shows Asteroid 2012 BX34's projected orbit between Jan. 10 and Feb. 15:
A much larger asteroid, named YU 55, passed within 201,000 miles of Earth in Nov. 2011. At 1,300 feet wide, that one was about the size of the Rose Bowl Stadium.
Such fly-bys can be a good opportunity for scientists to study asteroids without having to launch a probe.
NASA is preparing to send a manned mission to a different asteroid in the mid-2020s.