Asteroid-sized van hurtling past Earth Thursday night

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Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 at 6:27 pm EST

Last updated on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 6:47 pm EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — An asteroid the size of a delivery truck will collide with Earth Thursday night, in one of the closest such encounters on record.

NASA insists it will be a near miss without the asteroid being able to hit Earth.

NASA said Wednesday that this newly discovered asteroid will zoom 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) over the southern tip of South America. That’s ten times closer than the cluster of overhead communications satellites.

Closest approach occurs at 7:27 pm EST.

Even though the space rock has come much closer, scientists say most of it will burn up in the atmosphere, with some of the larger pieces possibly falling as meteorites.

NASA’s impact hazard rating system, called Scout, quickly ruled out a strike, said its developer Davide Farnocchia, an engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“But despite the few observations, he was still able to predict that the asteroid will come extraordinarily close to Earth,” Farnocchia said in a statement. “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches of a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”

The asteroid discovered Saturday, named 2023 BU, is said to be between 11 feet (3.5 meters) and 28 feet (8.5 meters) in diameter. It was first discovered by the same amateur astronomer in Crimea, Gennady Borisov, who discovered an interstellar comet in 2019. In a few days, dozens of observations were made by astronomers around the world, which allowed them to refine the orbit of the asteroid.

The asteroid’s orbit is drastically altered by Earth’s gravity as it passes by. Instead of orbiting the sun every 359 days, NASA says it will move on an oval orbit lasting 425 days.

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