‘Extraordinarily Close’ Asteroid About to Zoom Past Earth, NASA Says

An asteroid the size of a truck is set to pass close to Earth on Thursday, one of the closest encounters ever recorded, according to NASA. The asteroid, named 2023 BU and recently discovered by an amateur astronomer, is scheduled to fly by the southern tip of South America at around 4:27 pm PST on Thursday (0027 GMT Friday).

NASA also said that it will pass just 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) from Earth’s surface, closer than many geostationary satellites orbiting the planet. However, there is no risk of the asteroid hitting Earth, NASA said in a statement. Even if it did, the asteroid, measuring between 3.5-8.5 meters (11-28 feet) in diameter, would largely disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere and might only result in a few small meteorites.

‘Extraordinarily Close’ Asteroid About to Zoom Past Earth, NASA Says
A diagram showing 2023 BU’s trajectory in red during its close approach with Earth, and the orbit of geosynchronous satellites, shown in green. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The asteroid was first spotted on Saturday from an observatory in Crimea by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov, who also discovered an interstellar comet in 2019. Observatories around the world conducted dozens of observations after the asteroid was discovered. NASA’s Scout impact hazard assessment system quickly determined that the asteroid would miss Earth.

Despite the limited observations, it was able to predict that the asteroid would make an exceptionally close approach with Earth, said Davide Farnocchia, who helped develop Scout. This is one of the closest encounters by a known near-Earth object ever recorded. The asteroid’s trajectory around the Sun will be significantly altered as a result of the close encounter. Previously, it took the asteroid 359 days to orbit the Sun, but now it will take 425 days, NASA said.

READ MORE: Astronomers Detect Huge ‘Planet Killer’ Asteroid that Could One Day Smash into Earth (Video)

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