Close encounter: Asteroid shaves past Earth in one of closest flybys ever recorded (PHOTOS)

Jan 27 2023, 5:22 pm

Don’t freak out, but an asteroid the size of a large truck had a “very close encounter” with Earth Thursday night, according to NASA.

The space agency says the asteroid, named 2023 BU, zoomed over the southern tip of South America at around 4:27 pm PT (7:27 pm ET) only 3,600 km above the planet’s surface.

This was well within the orbit of global satellites, making it one of the closest approaches by a near-Earth object ever recorded.

While this sounds alarming, NASA assured people that there was “no risk” of the asteroid actually hitting the planet.

“Even if it did, this small asteroid – estimated to be 11.5 to 28 feet (3.5 to 8.5 metres) across – would turn into a fireball and largely disintegrate harmlessly in the atmosphere, with some of the bigger debris potentially falling as small meteorites,” the space agency explained.

2023 BU was discovered by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov from his MARGO observatory in Nauchnyi, Crimea on Saturday, January 21.

From there, the asteroid’s route was analyzed by many organizations including the Minor Planet Center, which measures the position of small celestial bodies and a number of observatories around the world.

NASA’s Scout impact hazard assessment system, which is run by the Center for Near Earth Object Studies, then inspected all of the data and quickly “predicted the near miss.”

“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 NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who developed Scout, in a statement.

CCNY Planetarium, a science visual lab based in New York City, created a neat moving visual showing the asteroid shaving past Earth. They used data from NASA JPL to create the visual.

NASA adds that while any asteroid in Earth’s proximity will experience a shift in trajectory because of gravity, 2023 BU came so close that its path around the sun is expected to change significantly.

The asteroid is expected to complete one orbit every 425 days.

Isabelle DoctoIsabelle Docto

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