An asteroid the size of a delivery truck will pass Earth in one of the closest encounters ever recorded — within a tenth of the orbital distance of most communications satellites.
NASA said the newly discovered asteroid will pass 2,200 miles (3,600 km) above the southern tip of South America at 7:27 p.m. EDT Thursday (12.27 a.m. GMT Friday).
NASA said it would be a near miss with no chance of hitting Earth. Even if it got too close, scientists said most of it would burn up in the atmosphere, with larger pieces possibly falling as meteors.
Its developer, David Farnocchia, an engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said NASA’s impact risk assessment system, called Scout, quickly ruled out a strike.
“But despite his very few observations, he was able to predict that the asteroid would come unusually close to Earth,” Farnocchia said. “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches ever recorded by a known NEO.”
Discovered on Saturday, the asteroid known as 2023 BU is thought to be between 11 feet (3.5 meters) and 28 feet (8.5 meters) 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 optimize the asteroid’s trajectory.
This trajectory will be drastically altered by the Earth’s gravity as it passes. Instead of orbiting the sun every 359 days, it will go into an elliptical orbit that will last 425 days, according to NASA.
With the Associated Press
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