(Reuters) - An asteroid estimated to be the size of three football fields is set for its close-up on a live webcast as it whizzes by Earth on Monday, roughly a year after one exploded over Russia and injured 1,200 people.
Slooh Space Camera plans to track the close approach of Asteroid 2000 EM26 as it races past the planet at approximately 27,000 miles per hour (43,000 km/h), starting at 9 p.m. EST (2 a.m. GMT, February 18), the robotic telescope service said in a statement on Slooh.com.
The 295-yard (270-meter) asteroid was expected to streak by Earth little more than a year after another asteroid exploded on February 15, 2013 over Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring 1,200 people following a massive shock wave that shattered windows and damaged buildings.
Chelyabinsk region officials had wanted to mark the anniversary by giving a piece of the meteorite to each 2014 Winter Olympic athlete who won a medal on Saturday at the Sochi Games. However, the International Olympic Committee at the last minute said it could be done only after the games and separately.
Viewers watching Monday's live webcast on Slooh.com can ask questions of Slooh host and astronomer Bob Berman on social media by using the hashtag #asteroid, the statement said.
The webcast will use images of Asteroid 2000 EM26 captured from Slooh's ground-based telescopes. Its flagship observatory is located on Mount Teide in the Canary Islands, in partnership with the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, the statement said.
"We continue to discover these potentially hazardous asteroids - sometimes only days before they make their close approaches to Earth," Paul Coz, Slooh's technical and research director, said in the statement.
"We need to find them before they find us!" Coz said in the statement.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Nick Zieminski)