Asteroid to zip past Earth in one of the closest encounters ever recorded

WATCH: After being discovered merely a week earlier by an amateur astronomer in Crimea, an asteroid the size of a truck has made one of the closest approaches to Earth ever recorded. Eric Sorensen explains why the space rock wasn't a threat, and the importance of keeping an eye on happenings in outer space.

An asteroid the size of a delivery truck will get “extraordinarily close” to Earth on Thursday night, according to NASA scientists, but there’s no need to sound alarm bells for Armageddon as the space rock is slated to miss.

A press release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California said the asteroid will make one of the closest approaches by a near-Earth object ever recorded. The asteroid, called 2023 BU, will zoom over the southern tip of South America and miss by only 3,600 kilometres, 10 times closer than the distance of most communication satellites in Earth’s orbit.

2023 BU will pass Earth just before 7:30 p.m. EST. NASA scientists have estimated the asteroid is between 3.5 to 8.5 metres long.

A diagram of the asteroid's trajectory.

This orbital diagram shows 2023 BU's trajectory — in red — during its close approach with Earth on Jan. 26, 2023. The green line shows the orbit of geosynchronous satellites.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Even if the asteroid did have a direct path for Earth, NASA scientists said it would “turn into a fireball and largely disintegrate harmlessly in the atmosphere” before making contact. Larger debris could fall as small meteorites, but that would likely be the extent of any damage.

The asteroid was discovered by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov on Jan. 21 from an observatory in Nauchnyi, Crimea. After it was reported, NASA’s impact hazard assessment system, called Scout, analyzed data collected from the asteroid’s trajectory and quickly predicted a near-miss.

Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer who developed Scout, said 2023 BU “is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”

Asteroid 2023 BU’s path to pass Earth will reportedly be altered by our planet’s gravity. While 2023 BU has previously taken 359 days to orbit the Sun, after Thursday it will move halfway between Earth’s and Mars’ orbits. The full orbit of 2023 BU will turn into an oval shape and last 425 days.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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