An asteroid the size of a van will whiz past Earth on Thursday evening, one of the closest such encounters ever recorded.
NASA insists it will be a near miss with no chance of the asteroid hitting Earth.
NASA said Wednesday that this newly discovered asteroid will zoom 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) above the southern tip of South America. That’s 10 times closer than the amount of communications satellites orbiting overhead.
The closest approach takes place at 19:27 EST (21:27 local)
Even if the space rock came much closer, scientists said most of it would burn up in the atmosphere, with some of the larger pieces possibly falling as meteorites.
NASA’s risk 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.
“However, despite the very few observations, it was nevertheless able to predict that the asteroid would come extraordinarily close to Earth,” Farnocchia said in a statement. “In fact, this is one of the closest approximations of a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”
Discovered Saturday, the asteroid known as 2023 BU is believed to be between 11 feet (3.5 meters) and 28 feet (8.5 meters) across. It was first discovered 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, which allowed them to refine the orbit of the asteroid.
The asteroid’s path will be drastically altered by Earth’s gravity as it zips by. Instead of orbiting the sun every 359 days, it will move into an oval orbit lasting 425 days, according to NASA.
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