Earth will have a close encounter with an asteroid this week

NASA predicts that the asteroid will make one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded. However, it poses no harm to humankind.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor
asteroid depicted by a bright orange streak  hitting earth
Image: Getty Images / Science Photo Library

NASA predicts that an asteroid the size of a box truck is going to make one of the closest approaches of a near-Earth object ever recorded on Thursday. Before you book a one-way ticket to the Moon, NASA reassures the public that the asteroid is at no risk of impacting Earth. 

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The asteroid, called Asteroid 2023, is expected to fly over South America at about 7:27 pm EST. During its flight, the asteroid is predicted to be only 2,200 miles above Earth's surface, making it the closest in recorded history, according to NASA

diagram of an asteroid approximating Earth

This orbital diagram from CNEOS's close approach viewer shows 2023 BU's trajectory -- in red -- during its close approach with Earth on January 26, 2023. The asteroid will pass about 10 times closer to Earth than the orbit of geosynchronous satellites, shown in green line.

Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Although the asteroid is in close proximity to Earth, its size means it poses no threat to the planet. Asteroid 2023 is considered a small asteroid, measuring 11.5 to 28 feet across. If it were to approach Earth, it would become a fireball and disintegrate harmlessly, with some bigger debris potentially falling as small meteorites. 

The asteroid was initially spotted by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov on Saturday and reported to the Minor Planet Center (MPC). NASA then used its Scout impact hazard assessment system to analyze MPC's data and predict the near miss. 

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Even though this asteroid is not a threat, NASA has been dedicating resources to building planetary defenses against asteroids. Last year, the NASA DART mission successfully smashed a spacecraft into an asteroid. The test and its results showed that the agency is equipped to target an asteroid and change its course in case of a potential threat. There will be no dinosaur ending for us!

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