According to NASA, there is no need to worry; an asteroid will pass Earth without damage on Thursday night. Even so, the space agency claims the object will make one of the nearest contacts to Earth ever when it flies across the Southern Hemisphere. It’s about the size of a huge moving truck.
NASA is calling it a “very close encounter with our planet.”
NASA estimates that the asteroid, designated 2023 BU, will pass over the southern tip of South America at 7:27 p.m. ET, at an altitude of only 2,200 miles over Earth’s surface. That’s less distance than the 2,230 miles it takes to fly directly from New York City to Las Vegas.
As the close passing was being revealed by NASA, a navigation engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California named Davide Farnocchia said, “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”
Even if it did reach our planet — which scientists keep saying won’t happen — the little asteroid’s primary impact would be visual, as it would turn into a fireball in our atmosphere. Some of the material from it would probably fall as small meteorites, according to NPR.
There is very little warning for the asteroid’s arrival: This past Saturday, Gennadiy Borisov, a Crimean amateur astronomer, verified the existence of asteroid 2023 BU. Borisov is also credited with detecting many other comets and asteroids, including the first interstellar comet.
Using the Scout system, which is used to evaluate possible risks, NASA swiftly decided that 2023 BU would not impact Earth but would instead “make an extraordinarily close approach,” as described by the technology’s creator, Farnocchia.
Learning of the impending encounter coincides with NASA’s increased focus on planetary defense, which includes the monitoring and study of potential impactors. Even a backup plan to smash an asteroid was tried last year in case it’s ever needed to deflect anything off of Earth’s path.
Many other close-passing asteroids have made news in recent years, including one that was “the size of two Rose Bowl stadiums,” but 2023 BU is significantly smaller than any of them. Unlike some of those earlier objects, however, which remained millions of miles from Earth, this asteroid will soon pass within a few thousand.
During its near approach to Earth, the asteroid will come within ten times closer to the surface than the high-orbiting geosynchronous satellites.
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