A newly discovered asteroid will come very close to Earth this week.
Asteroid 2023 BU measures between 12 and 28 feet across (3.8 to 8.5 meters) and was just discovered on Saturday (Jan. 21) by astronomer Gennadiy Borisov at the MARGO Observatory in Crimea. When it passes closest to Earth on Thursday (Jan. 26) at 4:17 p.m. EST (2117 GMT), the space rock will be within less than 3% of the mean Earth-Moon distance at an altitude of just 2,178 miles (3,506 kilometers) above the earth’s surface.
By comparison, most geostationary satellites orbit about 35,800 km away.
Most asteroids aren’t bright enough to be seen without a powerful telescope; luckily you can watch asteroid 2023 BU make its close encounter with our planet thanks to the Virtual Telescope Project. Astronomer Gianluca Masi will host a free live stream of the asteroid’s pass at the project website (opens in new tab) or Youtube Channel (opens in new tab) on Thursday (January 26) starting at 2:15 p.m. EST (1915 GMT).
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The asteroid is currently located in the constellation Ursa Major. Due to its small size, asteroid 2023 BU is quite faint at magnitude 19.15, but could be visible through a powerful telescope operated by a seasoned skywatcher.
Fortunately for those of us who aren’t experienced asteroid hunters, the Virtual Telescope Project will stream the whole thing. “Asteroid 2023 BU will have an extremely close but safe encounter with us [within] less than 10,000 km from the center of the Earth, about 25% of the distance of the geostationary satellites,” Masi writes of the project website (opens in new tab).
Asteroid 2023 BU is known as an Apollo-type asteroid, meaning that its orbit crosses that of Earth, but spends most of its time well outside our planet’s path, according to the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (opens in new tab), which is based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. 2023 BU orbits the sun every 425 days and will not come close to our planet until December 6, 2036.
Although asteroid 2023 BU will come extremely close to Earth, it is not categorized as potentially dangerous. That’s because its small size means it would likely break up and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
Hoping to glimpse asteroid 2023 BU? Our guides to the best telescopes and best binoculars may be able to help you on your way to the right optics. You can also check out our guides on the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography to get started.
Editor’s Note: If you manage to take a picture of asteroid 2023 BU and want to share it with the readers of Space.com, please send your picture(s), comments, and your name and location to email@example.com.