NASA has announced that an asteroid known as 2023 BU will be making a close approach to Earth this week. This will be one of the closest asteroid flyovers ever recorded. Is something threatening us?
We learned that a small asteroid was flying towards our planet just on Saturday. At that time, an amateur astronomer detected an object coming from space, designated as 2023 BU. When the observations were confirmed, the asteroid’s size was estimated. According to NASA, it is about the size of a delivery truck.
The asteroid will fly close to us. At its closest approach to Earth, it will be only 3,600 kilometers away. This is only about a tenth of the distance at which most telecommunications satellites orbit above the planet. They are placed in geostationary orbit, which is less than 36,000 km above the equator.
2023 BU will make its maximum approach to Earth tonight at 01:27 CET.
Does the asteroid 2023 BU threaten the Earth?
Fortunately, the satellite poses virtually no danger to us. NASA has ruled out that there is any risk of a collision with Earth. Even if the asteroid came even closer to us, it would mostly burn up in the atmosphere.
Astronomers estimate that asteroid 2023 BU is between 3.5 and 8.5 meters in diameter. Its passage near Earth and the impact of our planet’s gravity will significantly change its orbit. So far, it circled the Sun in 359 days in a near-circular orbit. Now its orbit will lengthen and the orbital period will increase to 425 days.
Who discovered comet 2023 BU?
2023 BU was discovered by Gennady Borisov, an amateur astronomer living in Crimea. Borisov is credited with spotting an extremely rare and very interesting to scientists interstellar comet three years ago, which was officially named 2I/Borisov after him.
On Saturday, it was Borisov who first reported the sighting of 2023 BU. He was soon followed by other observations, which astronomers reported to the Minor Planet Center (MPC). The MPC collects data on all observed non-small objects in the Solar System of the asteroid and comet type. When enough information appears, it officially announces the discovery of a new space object.
What is Scout and how does it work?
After three days of observations, astronomers were already able to plot the comet’s likely orbit. The data went into NASA’s Scout system. Scout was created to estimate the risk of collision with Earth of space objects approaching us.
“Scout quickly ruled out that the 2023 BU would hit Earth,” says Davide Farnocchia, Scout’s creator. — “Despite few observations, however, it was able to show that the asteroid would come extremely close to Earth. And that it will be one of the closest approaches ever recorded,” he adds.
2023 BU has been formally classified as a Near Earth Object (NEO). Despite the name, “most NEOs do not get too close to Earth and therefore do not pose a risk,” the NASA website reads. “Only a small fraction of them require attention. They are so-called ‘potentially hazardous asteroids.’” To be included in this group, an asteroid must be at least 140 meters in diameter. That is, much more than the size of 2023 BU.
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