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ESA Launches Challenge to Find Christmas Asteroid in the Sky

This is a challenge for all those who love looking at the skies!

The European Space Agency has issued a challenge to amateur astronomers to find the Christmas asteroid that will cross the skies. The asteroid could be the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza and will safely approach Earth, putting on a nightly show.

This year during the Christmas season, the planet has a special guest that will cross the skies, called asteroid 2015 RN35, it has a size between 60 and 140 meters in diameter and will approach the Earth safely starting December 15.

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ESA has just launched a challenge for all those amateur astronomers who wish to hunt for the Christmas asteroid in the sky and are encouraged to share their views through social networks with the hashtag #ESAChristmasAsteroid, adding detailed information about the observation location.

When to see the Christmas asteroid?

The aerospace agency said the challenge begins in the early hours of December 15, when the 2015 RN35 has its closest safe approach to Earth. During this time, the asteroid will be 679,800 kilometers away from us, which is almost twice the distance between the Moon and the Earth (1.8 moons), so it will be a safe but important approach.

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Even though the cosmic object travels at a dizzying speed of 21,700 kilometers per hour, you should not worry if you do not manage to admire it in the early morning of December 15, since it will remain visible in the celestial vault for about a week, until December 19.

2015 RN35 which was discovered in 2015, as its name suggests, will shine with a magnitude of 14, which is roughly equivalent to the brightness of Pluto in the sky. Although ESA has said that observational instruments will be required to hunt for the Christmas asteroid, a small-sized telescope should be sufficient to admire the cosmic Christmas spectacle.

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In optimal weather conditions and with the necessary amount of darkness, 2015 RN35 should be visible with telescopes up to 11.8 inches. With this challenge, ESA seeks to better understand the cosmic object of which certain aspects are still unknown, such as its size, which is stipulated to be between 60 and 140 meters in length.

It is also known that the orbit of 2015 RN35 is approximately 654 days in which it takes to complete one full revolution of the Sun. Other than these data, there is not much more information about the Christmas asteroid, so this close-up and observations by citizen scientists will be vitally important to learn more about the rock, including its composition type, as well as other data crucial to understanding this and other celestial bodies that cross close to Earth.

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Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera

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