You definitely shouldn’t panic, but there’s a big asteroid about to pass by Earth in the next few hours.
The bus-sized space rock, known as 2023 BU, will pass over the southern tip of South America just after midnight GMT.
With a planned closest approach of 3,600 km (2,200 miles), this counts as a close shave.
And that illustrates how there are still sizable asteroids lurking near Earth that are yet to be detected.
It was only recovered last weekend by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov, who operates from Nauchnyi in Crimea, the peninsula Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Follow-up observations have refined what we know about 2023 BU’s size and, importantly, its orbit.
This is how astronomers can be so sure it will miss the planet, even if it enters the arc occupied by the world’s communications satellites, which lie 36,000 km (22,000 miles) above. from U.S.
The lowest altitude time is calculated at 7:27 p.m. EST on Thursday; 00:27 GMT Friday.
Even if 2023 BU was on a direct collision course, it would struggle to do much damage.
With an estimated size of 3.5 m to 8.5 m in diameter (11.5 ft to 28 ft), the rock would likely decay high in the atmosphere. It would, however, produce a spectacular fireball.
For comparison, the famous Chelyabinsk meteor that entered Earth’s atmosphere over southern Russia in 2013 was an object almost 20m (66ft) in diameter. It produced a shock wave that shattered the windows on the floor.
Scientists from the US space agency Nasa claim that 2023 BU’s orbit around the Sun will be altered by its encounter with Earth.
Our planet’s gravity will pull on it and adjust its trajectory through space.
“Before encountering Earth, the asteroid’s orbit around the Sun was roughly circular, approaching Earth’s orbit, taking 359 days to complete its orbit around the Sun,” the agency said in a statement. communicated.
“After its encounter, the asteroid’s orbit will be further elongated, moving it roughly halfway between the orbits of Earth and Mars at its farthest point from the Sun. The asteroid will then orbit every 425 days.”
There’s a big effort going on to find the much bigger asteroids that could really do some damage if they were to hit Earth.
The real monsters, like the 12 km wide rock that wiped out the dinosaurs, have probably all been detected and are not cause for concern. But scale it down to something that’s, say, 150m in diameter and our inventory has gaps.
Statistics indicate that perhaps only 40% of these asteroids have been seen and assessed to determine what level of threat they might pose.
Such objects would inflict city-wide havoc if they were to hit the ground.