A delivery truck-sized asteroid is hurtling past Earth Thursday evening, one of the closest such encounters ever recorded.
NASA insists it will be a near miss with no chance of the asteroid hitting Earth.
The US space agency said Wednesday that this newly discovered asteroid will zoom 3,600 kilometers above the southern tip of South America. That’s 10 times closer than the bevy of communications satellites orbiting overhead.
The closest approach will occur at 7:27 p.m. ET.
Even if the space rock got a lot closer, scientists said most of it would 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, Calif.
“But despite the very few observations, it was nevertheless able to predict that the asteroid would be extremely close to Earth,” Farnocchia said in a statement.
“In fact, this is one of the closest approaches to a known near-Earth object.”
Asteroid spotted by amateur astronomer in Crimea
The asteroid known as 2023 BU, discovered on Saturday, is between 3.5 and 8.5 meters in diameter.
It was first noticed by Gennady Borisov, the same amateur astronomer in Crimea who discovered an interstellar comet in 2019.
Within a few days, dozens of observations were made by astronomers around the world, helping them fine-tune the asteroid’s orbit.
The asteroid’s path will be drastically altered by Earth’s gravity once it flashes past. Instead of circling the sun every 359 days, it will go into an oval orbit lasting 425 days, according to NASA.