We’re not all about to go the way of the dinosaurs yet, But, though we’re not about to meet our maker thanks to an asteroid just yet, one is rocketing past Earth in one of the closest asteroid encounters ever recorded.
That asteroid is “Asteroid 2023 BU,” and according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it was just 2,200 miles from Earth, a mere hair’s breadth in the vastness of space, at one point yesterday. Writing about that, JPL said:
Asteroid 2023 BU is about the size of a box truck and is predicted to make one of the closest approaches by a near-Earth object ever recorded.
On Thursday, Jan. 26, a small near-Earth asteroid will have a very close encounter with our planet. Designated 2023 BU, the asteroid will zoom over the southern tip of South America at about 4:27 p.m. PST (7:27 p.m. EST) only 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) above the planet’s surface and well within the orbit of geosynchronous satellites.
JPL went on to assure readers that it wouldn’t cause much, if any, damage if it had hurtled toward Earth rather than just past it, saying:
There is no risk of the asteroid impacting Earth. But even if it did, this small asteroid – estimated to be 11.5 to 28 feet (3.5 to 8.5 meters) across – would turn into a fireball and largely disintegrate harmlessly in the atmosphere, with some of the bigger debris potentially falling as small meteorites.
JPL then noted who discovered the asteroid and what early warning system is in place to detect asteroids coming near Earth and predict their path so NASA knows ahead of time if one is coming close. Writing about that, JPL said:
The asteroid was discovered by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov, discoverer of the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov, from his MARGO observatory in Nauchnyi, Crimea, on Saturday, Jan. 21. Additional observations were reported to the Minor Planet Center (MPC) – the internationally recognized clearinghouse for the position measurements of small celestial bodies – and the data was then automatically posted to the Near-Earth Object Confirmation Page. After sufficient observations were collected, the MPC announced the discovery. Within three days, a number of observatories around the world had made dozens of observations, helping astronomers better refine 2023 BU’s orbit.
NASA’s Scout impact hazard assessment system, which is maintained by the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, analyzed the data from the MPC’s confirmation page and quickly predicted the near miss. CNEOS calculates every known near-Earth asteroid orbit to provide assessments of potential impact hazards in support of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO).
Ending on an interesting note, JPL said that this is one of the closest approaches ever by such an object, saying:
“Scout 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 JPL who developed Scout. “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”
By: Will Tanner. Follow me on Twitter @Will_Tanner_1
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