A small, truck-sized asteroid will pass Earth overnight Thursday through Friday, with one of the closest trajectories to our planet on record, but without any danger, NASA has announced. Asteroid 2023 BU, recently discovered by an amateur astronomer, will pass near the southern tip of South America around 1:27 a.m. (French time) on Friday, NASA said in a press release.
It will pass just 3,600 kilometers from the Earth’s surface, much closer than many geostationary satellites orbiting the planet. But there is no risk that the asteroid will hit the Earth, wishes to emphasize the American space agency. And even if it did, the asteroid, which measures between 3.5 and 8.5 meters in diameter, would largely disintegrate in our atmosphere, potentially dropping only a few pieces of debris as small meteorites.
“An extraordinarily close approach”
The object was spotted on Saturday from an observatory in Crimea by amateur astronomer Gennady Borissov, the discoverer of the interstellar comet Borissov in 2019. Dozens of observations were then made by observatories around the world, confirming the arrival of 2023 BU.
NASA’s impact risk assessment system, Scout, quickly ruled out impact with Earth. “Despite the very few sightings, he was still able to predict that the asteroid would make an extraordinarily close approach to Earth,” said Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which developed Scout. It is “one of the closest approaches by a near-Earth object (an asteroid or a comet whose orbit crosses that of the Earth, editor’s note) ever recorded”, he adds.
The asteroid will come so close to the blue planet that Earth’s gravity is expected to alter its orbit around the Sun. Before its arrival, it took 359 days for the asteroid to go around our star. It will now need 425, according to NASA.