Elephant-sized asteroid passes Earth in one of closest encounters ever | Science and technology news


An elephant-sized asteroid has swept past Earth in one of the closest encounters on record.

The space rock, dubbed 2023 BU, was expected to hurtle over the southern tip of South America at around 12:29 a.m. Friday, just 3,540 km (2,200 miles) above Earth’s surface.

This makes it the fourth closest asteroid flyby over Earth ever recorded.

In comparison, some satellites orbit at altitudes in excess of 21,000 miles.

NASA insisted before passing the planet that the rock had no chance of hitting Earth – and even if it got too close, scientists said most of it would burn up in the atmosphere.

The asteroid was estimated to be between 11.5 and 28 feet in diameter.

Its size has been estimated to be that of an elephant or a minibus.

Robotic telescopes captured an image of the asteroid

While any asteroid near Earth will experience a change in its trajectory due to the planet’s gravity, 2023 came so close to BU that its orbit around the Sun is expected to have changed significantly.

The Virtual Telescope Project, a powerful set of real robotic telescopes that can be remotely accessed online, captured it at a distance of 37,000 km (23,000 miles).

The image was captured by the project’s robotic unit “Elena”.

The project said in a post on its website: “It wasn’t easy to visualize because the sky was cloudy most of the time, so we had to delay our live feed many times.

“But we were lucky: eventually the skies cleared and although it was far from decent, we were able to discover and follow this rock and share the experience in real time with a very large international audience.

“We were able to track it before the clouds returned: at that point, 2023 BU was about 17,000 miles from the center of the Earth, about 14,000 miles above the Earth’s surface.”

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The Same Asteroid Has “Flew By Earth Thousands Of Times”

Before the space rock flew by, Professor Don Pollacco of the University of Warwick’s Physics Department said: “There are still asteroids crossing Earth’s orbit, waiting to be spotted – a little bus that must have passed Earth thousands of times.”

“This time it’s happening just 2,200 miles from Earth – just 10% of the distance to the Moon – a celestial near miss.

“Depending on what 2023 BU is composed of, it will likely never reach Earth’s surface, but will instead burn up in the atmosphere as a luminous ball of fire — brighter than a full moon.

“However, there are likely still many asteroids out there that could go undetected and enter the atmosphere and hit the surface — in fact, many scientists believe we could be due to such an event.”

The asteroid was discovered on January 21 by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov from his Margo Observatory in Nauchnyi, Crimea.

NASA’s Scout Impact Hazard Assessment system analyzed the data and predicted the near miss.

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