An asteroid the size of a delivery truck will pass Earth in one of the closest such encounters ever recorded – coming within a tenth of the distance of most communication satellites’ orbit.
Nasa said the newly discovered asteroid would pass 2,200 miles (3,600km) above the southern tip of South America at 7.27pm US eastern time on Thursday (12.27am GMT on Friday).
Nasa said it would be a near miss with no chance of hitting Earth. Even if it came a lot closer, scientists said most of it would burn up in the atmosphere, with bigger pieces possibly falling as meteorites.
Nasa’s impact hazard assessment system, called Scout, quickly ruled out a strike, said its developer, Davide Farnocchia, an engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“But despite the very few observations, it was nevertheless able to predict that the asteroid would make an extraordinarily close approach with Earth,” Farnocchia said. “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”
Discovered on Saturday, the asteroid known as 2023 BU is believed to be between 11ft (3.5m) and 28ft (8.5m) across.
It was first spotted by the same amateur astronomer in Crimea, Gennady Borisov, 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 path.
That path will be altered drastically by Earth’s gravity as it passes. Instead of circling the sun every 359 days, it will move into an oval orbit lasting 425 days, according to Nasa.
With Associated Press