Huge asteroid will be the closest encounters ever recorded


Published January 26, 2023 at 8:55 am

Astronomers are watching the skies for an asteroid the size of a delivery truck that will whip past Earth on Thursday night in one of the closest asteroid encounters ever recorded.

Discovered Saturday (Jan. 21), the asteroid known as 2023 BU is believed to be between 11 feet (3.5 meters) and 28 feet (8.5 meters) feet across. It was first spotted by amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov in Crimea, who discovered an interstellar comet in 2019.

Within a few days, dozens of observations were made by astronomers around the world, allowing them to refine the asteroid’s orbit.

NASA said Wednesday that this newly discovered asteroid will zoom 3,600 kilometers above the southern tip of South America. That’s 10 times closer than the bevy of communication satellites circling overhead.

While an asteroid skirting past the Earth might feel ripped from the pages of a Hollywood script, NASA insists the space rock will has no chance of hitting the planet and will be a near-miss. So no need to call up Bruce Willis or Ben Affleck for this one.

The closest approach will occur at 7:27 p.m. EST (9:27 p.m. local.)

Even if the asteroid comes a lot closer, scientists said most of it would burn up in the atmosphere, with some larger pieces possibly falling as meteorites.

NASA’s impact hazard assessment system, called Scout, quickly ruled out a strike said Davide Farnocchia, the system’s developer and an engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

“But despite the very few observations, it was nonetheless able to predict that the asteroid would make an extraordinarily close approach with Earth,” Farnocchia said in a statement. “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”

The asteroid’s path will drastically be altered by Earth’s gravity once it zips by. Instead of circling the sun every 359 days, it will move into an oval orbit lasting 425 days, according to NASA.

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