Near-Earth asteroid pass January 18 visible in telescope and telephoto lenses
By John Hlynialuk - January 7/2022

A number of astronomy news sources have recently reported on an asteroid called “1994 PC1” which is due for a flyby of the Earth-Moon system on January 18. There is no chance of collision since the miss distance is over five times the Moon-Earth distance (or about two million km or so). The neat thing about this is that at its closest, 1994 PC1 should be detectable in small telescopes as a moving 10th magnitude point of light. You are encouraged to go out and have a look. If you locate it and make note of its position with respect to other stationary stars, you should be able to see its motion in 10 or 15 minutes. The asteroid is moving about 2° per hour so it will cross a 0.5° field of view (a medium power eyepiece) in 15 minutes.

I have provided a finder chart below (about 15° across) of a small part of the sky in Pisces during several hours on January 18. Here is the link to the EarthSky.org report with more details.

The asteroid is about a kilometre across - the size that would not be a “planet killer” if it had actually hit Earth. Still, had the impact point been Owen Sound, for example, everything from Collingwood to Wiarton would have been destroyed, with a crater at the impact point about 10 km across. Even Toronto would experience a shock wave that would knock buildings down and most of SW Ontario would notice something, except in Ottawa, where the politicians would not notice much happening in Grey Bruce.

If you are interested in exploring asteroid impact damage more, a scientific analysis of these is available here.

The area of interest is near the star Alrescha, where traditional stick figure diagrams show the Pisces fish “tied together.” The second attachment is a wider view chart showing Pisces and its surrounding constellations with the asteroid labelled in red. This view is at 20:00 EST, and the asteroid is 45° high at that time. Sunset is at 17:13 that evening, and the sky will be as dark as it will get that night by 19:00. However, the just-past-full Moon will be rising a half hour after sunset so there will be moonlight that night. Send me an email if you have any luck spotting it. Imagers out there are encouraged to capture this event. Good luck and stay safe!

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