Newly detected asteroid now passing Earth closer than moon: ScienceAlert

Don’t be alarmed, but as you read this, a house-sized asteroid is about to zoom past Earth.

Depending on your location, the newly found asteroid 2023 EY will pass our planet late Thursday night or Friday morning at a distance of just 240,000 kilometers (149,000 miles) — a little less than two-thirds the distance of the moon.

That may sound awkwardly close, but the space is big. A speck like EY 2023 poses no threat to any of us.

At just 16 meters (52 feet) in diameter, it’s about the same size as the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Siberia in 2013, causing a series of injuries with its shock wave. Fortunately, EY 2023 doesn’t even enter our atmosphere.

Still, the proximity presents a cool opportunity. Although the asteroid is not bright enough to see with the naked eye, it will be visible through telescopes.

The Virtual Telescope Project will stream the flyby live, starting at 00:00 UTC on Friday, March 17. That’s 8:00 PM EDT on Thursday, March 16 and 11:00 AEDT on Friday, March 17.

The images are captured by a 17-inch robotic telescope in Ceccano, central Italy, and the closest approach is expected to occur at 00:35 UTC, Friday, March 17. You can watch below.

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Particularly cool is that this asteroid was only observed for the first time on Monday, March 13.

It was picked up by a telescope at the Sutherland Observing Station in South Africa – one of four telescopes that are part of the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) network, established by the University of Hawaii and funded by NASA to an early warning system for asteroid impacts.

With two telescopes in Hawaii, one in Chile and one in South Africa, ATLAS’ goal is to be aware for at least a few days before an asteroid comes uncomfortably close to Earth.

And now that we know that we can successfully knock an asteroid off course using rockets thanks to the recent DART mission, this advanced warning will be crucial.

2023 EY is classified as an Apollo NEO or Near-Earth object. This is the largest group of NEOs currently known, with 17,540 Apollo asteroids in February 2023.

Chart showing the position of 2023 EY at 00:00 UTC, Thursday, March 16. (NASA)

The Apollo asteroids are named after 1862 Apollo, an asteroid discovered by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth in the 1930s. They all have orbits greater than Earth’s around the sun, but their paths cross those of Earth.

Nearly 2,000 of the Apollo asteroids have been identified as potentially dangerous asteroids, which sounds scary but basically means objects larger than about 150 meters that could come within 7.5 million kilometers (4.6 million miles) of Earth .

2023 EY is not in this size range, but is still on NASA’s Asteroid Watch Dashboard due to its close approach.

So don’t worry. Instead, take a moment to watch live as a large space rock comes close enough for us to swing as it continues its long journey around the sun.

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