In case you haven't heard, we have the celestial version of a drive-by in our near future:
At 2:26 p.m. EST (1926 GMT) on Feb. 15, the asteroid 2012 DA14 will fly within 17,200 miles (27,680 kilo- meters) of Earth. This is lower than the communications satellites that orbit 22,000 miles (35,800 km) above the equator.
The asteroid will not hit the Earth on this orbital pass, but asteroid 2012 DA14 is about the size of the object that hit Siberia in 1908 (the "Tunguska Event"). The asteroid was discovered on Feb. 23, 2012, by the La Sagra Sky Survey. [Asteroid 2012 DA14 Flyby: Fact vs. Fiction (Video)]
At 150 feet wide (49 meters), the asteroid is less than half the length of the International Space Station (356 feet wide, or 109 meters). It is about half the size of a football field.
I guess it will be possible, but very difficult, to see it with a small telescope if you know where to look. And you're not hiding in your basement.
We are assured that there is nothing to fear from this particular asteroid, but it is kind of sobering to realize that a rock capable of devastating about 800 square miles in an air burst will come so close and it was only discovered a year ago. NASA/JPL has a list of 301 other Near-Earth Asteroids(within 5 Lunar Distances) that they are keeping an eye on. Those are the ones they know about, nobody knows how many more are orbiting the sun undiscovered.
If I were to bet on such things, my money would be on 2011 LJ19, which is currently due on 7/26/2028. Why? Well, if Social Security is still around and they haven't pushed the retirement age up to 90 or so, that's about the time I would get my first payment. It'll probably come right through my roof.