CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — An asteroid the size of a delivery truck will fly past Earth Thursday night in one of the closest such encounters ever recorded.
NASA insists that the asteroid is unlikely to collide with Earth and has no chance.
NASA said Wednesday that this newly discovered asteroid will zoom 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) over the southern tip of South America. That’s 10 times closer than the swarm of communications satellites circling overhead.
Closest approach will occur at 19:27 EST (21:27 local time).
Even if the space rock gets much closer, scientists say most of it will burn up in the atmosphere, and some of the larger pieces may fall as meteorites.
NASA’s threat assessment system, called Scout, quickly ruled out a strike, said its developer, David Fornocchio, an engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“However, despite the very few observations, it was still possible to predict that the asteroid will come unusually close to Earth,” Farnocchia said in a statement. “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches of a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”
The asteroid, known as 2023 BU, discovered on Saturday is believed to be between 3.5 meters and 8.5 meters in size. It was first noticed by the same Crimean amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov, who discovered the interstellar comet in 2019. In a few days, astronomers from all over the world made dozens of observations, which allowed them to clarify the asteroid’s orbit.
An asteroid’s path will change dramatically due to Earth’s gravity as it passes by. Instead of circling the sun every 359 days, it will travel in an oval orbit lasting 425 days, according to NASA.