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Asteroid to fly ‘unusually close’ to Earth on Thursday

The asteroid will come 10 times closer to Earth than the communications satellites currently in orbit, but NASA insists it has no chance of colliding with Earth.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida. A truck-sized asteroid will streak past Earth on Thursday evening, one of the closest such impacts ever recorded.

NASA insists it will be a near miss and there is no chance of the asteroid colliding with Earth.

On Wednesday, NASA said the newly discovered asteroid will pass at an altitude of 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) over the southern tip of South America. That’s 10 times closer than a bunch of communications satellites circling overhead.

The closest approach will occur at 7:27 pm EST (9:27 pm local time).

Even if the space rock were to get close, most of it would burn up in the atmosphere, and some of the larger pieces could possibly fall as meteorites, scientists say.

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

“But despite very few observations, he was nevertheless able to predict that the asteroid would make an extremely close approach to Earth,” Farnokchia said in a statement. “In fact, this is one of the closest known near-Earth objects ever recorded.”

The asteroid discovered Saturday, known as 2023 BU, is believed to be between 11 feet (3.5 meters) and 28 feet (8.5 meters) in diameter. It was first noticed by the same Crimean amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov, who discovered the interstellar comet in 2019. Within a few days, astronomers around the world made dozens of observations, which made it possible to refine the asteroid’s orbit.

The asteroid’s trajectory will change dramatically under the influence of Earth’s gravity as soon as it flies by. According to NASA, instead of orbiting the Sun every 359 days, it will move in an oval orbit lasting 425 days.

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