Earth is set to be destroyed or gain a new superhero or perhaps not be affected at all as a giant asteroid flies by the planet Thursday evening.
News outlets are reporting the asteroid is "the size of a city block," though, since the size of a city block varies widely from place to place, that's a bit like saying something is "as hungry as I am right now."
Astronomers are estimating this thing is about 1,650 feet wide, which is quite big. To put it in perspective: it's like if you cloned me 290 times and then laid all 291 of me's head to foot across a city block. (I'm 5'8.) It's like if you made a full-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower, chopped it in half, placed one of those halves on top of the original Eiffel Tower, and then turned the whole thing sideways. (The Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet tall.) It's like if you took 550 yardsticks and held them end to end. (3 feet in a yard.) Does that make sense? We're having a lot of fun with math here and I think everything is really coming together.
The asteroid is named 2012 LZ1 but is known in the Internet chatrooms it frequents as 2012Lazy1. It will come within 14 lunar distances of Earth Thursday evening.
Here's a great visual from Wikipedia to put lunar distance into perspective. (As the name implies, it's a measurement of the distance between the Earth and its moon.)
Since the asteroid will be way far out in outer space when it flies by, it definitely won't hit us.
(Or will it?)
(It will not.)
But it's still big enough and close enough to classify as "potentially hazardous."
Best of all, we might be able to see this monstroid shoot by on camera.
That's what the folks at SLOOH.com, a space observatory website, are banking on: they've got their telescope trained on the sky above the Canary Islands and will be streaming footage from it live on their homepage starting at 8:00 p.m. Thursday. (No word on exactly when 2012Lazy1 will make its appearance – if it does, indeed, fly close enough to get picked up on video.)
Everyone is encouraged to reconnect with an old lover, meditate, or learn a new hobby very quickly, just in case this thing goes rogue and comes careening into Earth.