Asteroid to Pass Closer to Earth Than Satellites

By Efthymis Oraiopoulos
Efthymis Oraiopoulos
Efthymis Oraiopoulos
January 26, 2023Updated: January 26, 2023

An asteroid roughly the size of a minivan will skim past Earth on Thursday night, coming closer than some satellites to the Earth’s surface, NASA reported on Wednesday.

NASA calculated that the asteroid will make one of the closest approaches to Earth ever recorded, but will safely miss the planet.

The space agency’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 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.”

asteroid
The estimated trajectory of asteroid 2023 BU, in red, affected by earth, the orbit of geosynchronous satellites, in green, and the orbit of the moon, in light gray. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

The asteroid, named 2023 BU, will pass over the southern tip of South America at about 4:27 p.m. PST (7:27 p.m. EST) only 2,200 miles above the planet’s surface.

Even if it hit Earth there would be no risk as it is estimated to be from 11.5 to 28 feet and it would turn into a fireball and largely disintegrate in the atmosphere, with some bigger debris potentially falling as meteorites.

Discovered Saturday, the asteroid 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 orbit.

Any asteroid which passes close to Earth will have a change in its orbit, but this time the asteroid’s path will be drastically altered by Earth. This is because it passes so close to Earth that instead of circling the sun every 359 days, it will move into an oval orbit lasting 425 days, according to NASA.

Another asteroid approximately the same size is also predicted by NASA to pass at a greater distance from Earth the same day, this one at a distance of 230,000 miles from the planet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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