Asteroid flying towards Earth in one of the closest encounters ever recorded, says Nasa


An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and is expected to make one of the closest passes ever, Nasa has said.

The object is expected to pass by safely. But it will do so incredibly closely: coming nearer to Earth than the orbit of many asteroids.

The object will make its closest approach on Thursday night or Friday morning, depending where people are. It will arrive at 12.27am on Friday UK time, or 7.27pm on Thursday evening in eastern time.

It is thought to be roughly 3.5 meters by about 8.5 meters.

And it was only spotted days before it makes it approach. It was found by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov – who also detected comet 2l/Borisov, an intriguing object that is thought to have visited us from outside of the solar system – on 21 January.

Within days, other astronomers had not only confirmed the existence of the object but also made dozens of observations of it, which helped scientists predict its orbit through space.

After it was detected, Nasa examined it with its Scout system, which is intended to predict the hazard from possible collisions. It said that it would miss the Earth – but only nearly.

“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.”

Nasa says there is “no risk” of the object colliding with Earth.

But even if it did, it would be unlikely to cause any significant damage. The asteroid would turn into a fireball as it hurtled into the atmosphere, disintegrating and leaving behind some small asteroids at most.

It will however come so close to Earth that it will have its course significantly altered by the gravity of our planet. Before this pass, it was travelling in a roughly circular shape, similar to Earth’s orbit, taking 359 days to go around the Sun.

After it has made its pass, however, scientists believe that it will have its route through the solar system stretched out, making it more elongated. At its furthest point from the Sun, it will now be roughly halfway between the orbits of the Earth and Mars, and it will take about 425 days to make its journey around our star.