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A van-sized asteroid is about to make one of the closest Earth flybys ever recorded.
The small near-Earth asteroid, dubbed 2023 BU, will zoom over the southern tip of South America at 7:27 p.m. ET on Thursday, about 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface. This distance is well within the orbit of global satellites.
According to NASA, there is no risk of the asteroid hitting Earth.
If the space rock, estimated to be 3.5 to 8.5 meters in diameter, was actually headed for Earth, it would turn into a fireball as it enters the atmosphere and dissipates. Any remaining debris would fall to the ground as small meteorites, according to the space agency.
Amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov spotted the asteroid on Saturday from the MARGO observatory in Nauchnyi, Crimea. Borisov previously discovered the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov in 2019
The Minor Planet Center, which tracks the positions of minor planets, comets and space rocks, also recently received reports of observations of the asteroid 2023 BU. Once enough observations were registered, the center announced the discovery of the asteroid. Under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union, the organization is responsible for identifying, designating, and orbiting such celestial objects.
Observatories around the world made additional observations following Sunday’s announcement of the discovery, allowing for accurate refinement of 2023 BU’s orbit.
The Scout impact hazard assessment system at NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies analyzed data from the Minor Planet Center and predicted that the asteroid would miss Earth.
The Center for Near Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California calculates the trajectories of all known near-Earth asteroids to assess their potential impact on our planet.
“Scout quickly ruled out 2023 BU as an impactor, but despite the very few observations it was still able to predict that the asteroid would make an exceptionally close approach to Earth,” said Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer at JPL who developed Scout. in an opinion. “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches of a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”
Earth’s gravity changes the trajectory of asteroids, but 2023 BU will come so close to our planet that its orbit around the Sun will change after the encounter.
Before Thursday’s close flyby, the asteroid had a circular orbit around the sun that lasted about 359 days. Afterward, Scientists estimate that the asteroid’s orbit will lengthen, extending this single orbit of the Sun to 425 days.