An asteroid about the size of a box truck is expected to make one of the closest approaches by a near-Earth object ever recorded, NASA said Wednesday.
The asteroid, designated 2023 BU, is expected to zip by the southern tip of South America at about 7:27 p.m. ET on Thursday just 2,200 miles from the planet's surface and well within the orbit of geosynchronous satellites, which sit 22,236 miles above the Earth, NASA said in a news release.
There is no risk of the asteroid, estimated to be 11.5 feet by 28 feet, will impact the Earth. Even if it did, the space agency said, an asteroid so small would turn into a fireball and disintegrate in the atmosphere, with some of the larger debris potentially falling as small meteorites.
NASA's Scout impact hazard assessment system "quickly ruled out 2023 BU as an impactor, but despite the very few observations, it was nonetheless able to predict that the asteroid would make an extraordinarily close approach with Earth," said Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, who developed the Scout system. "In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded."
NASA said the asteroid was discovered by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov from his MARGO observatory in Nauchnyi, Crimea, on Jan. 21.
Although any asteroid in Earth's proximity will experience a change in trajectory because of our planet's gravity, NASA said 2023 BU will come so close its path around the Sun is expected to be significantly altered. Before encountering Earth, the asteroid's orbit around the Sun approximated Earth's, taking 359 days.
After its encounter, the asteroid's orbit will be more elongated, moving it out to about halfway between Earth's and Mars' orbits at its farthest point from the Sun. The asteroid will then complete one orbit every 425 days.
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