An image-sized asteroid has brushed past Earth in the closest encounter on record.
The space rock, called 2023 BU, is expected to pass by the southern tip of South America around 12:29 a.m. Friday, just 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers) from Earth’s surface.
That makes it the fourth closest asteroid to Earth on record.
By comparison, some satellites orbit at altitudes exceeding 21,000 miles.
Before it passed Earth, NASA insisted that the rock had no chance of hitting Earth — even if it got too close, scientists say, most of it would burn up in the atmosphere.
The asteroid is estimated to be 11.5 feet to 28 feet in diameter.
It is thought to be the size of a large elephant or a minibus.
Robotic telescope captures image of asteroid
While any asteroid in Earth’s vicinity would undergo trajectory changes due to Earth’s gravity, 2023 BU is so close to Earth that its path around the sun is expected to change significantly.
The Virtual Telescope Project, a powerful set of real robotic telescopes that are remotely accessible online, captured its passage at a distance of 37,000 kilometers (23,000 miles).
The image was taken by the project’s “Elena” robotic unit.
In a post on its website, the project said: “It’s not easy to imagine it, because the sky was cloudy most of the time, so we had to delay the live broadcast several times.
“But we got lucky: at some point the sky improved and while it was far from decent, we were able to spot and track the rock, sharing the experience in real time with a large international audience.
“We could track the cloud before it came back: at that time, 2023 BU was about 28,500 kilometers from the Earth’s center and about 22,000 kilometers from the Earth’s surface.”
Read more tech news:
Scientists solve mystery behind 17th-century warship wreck found off Sussex coast
Solving the Mystery of Infant Deaths in the 1930s
Donald Trump allows Facebook and Instagram back after two-year ban
Same asteroid ‘passed by Earth thousands of times’
Don Polaco, professor of physics at the University of Warwick, said before the space rock’s flyby: “There are still asteroids crossing Earth’s orbit waiting to be discovered. 2023 BU is the most recent object to be found, and it is claimed that there is one that must have passed Earth thousands of times before.” small bus.
“This time it passed just 2,200 miles from Earth — just 10 percent of the distance to the Moon — for a close-in collision with a celestial body.
“Based on the composition of 2023 BU, it is unlikely to reach the Earth’s surface, but burn up in the atmosphere as a bright fireball – brighter than the full moon.
“However, there are likely many undiscovered asteroids that could penetrate the atmosphere and hit the surface—indeed, many scientists think we might encounter such an event.”
The asteroid was discovered on January 21 by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov at the Margo Observatory in Nauchnyi, Crimea.
NASA’s Reconnaissance Impact Hazard Assessment System analyzed the data and predicted a near miss.