An asteroid the size of a truck caused a cosmic stir as it whizzed by Earth in one of the closest encounters in recorded history. The space rock, named 2023 BU, zoomed past the southern tip of South America at around 12.29am on Friday, coming alarmingly close at only 2,200 miles from the Earth’s surface. This makes it the fourth closest flyby of an asteroid ever recorded, with some satellites orbiting at an altitude of over 21,000 miles.
While NASA reassured that the rock posed no threat of impact, its close proximity still caused a commotion among astronomers and space enthusiasts. The Virtual Telescope Project, a network of real robotic telescopes accessible online, captured the passing asteroid at a distance of 37,000km. The project’s “Elena” robotic unit managed to snap an image despite cloudy skies, a testament to the team’s determination and luck.
Not the first time
But 2023 BU is no stranger to Earth. According to Professor Don Pollacco from the University of Warwick, the asteroid has likely passed by Earth thousands of times before, with its size equivalent to a small bus. This time, it passed just 10% of the distance to the moon, making it a celestial near-miss. Depending on its composition, 2023 BU may burn up in the atmosphere as a brilliant fireball, brighter than a full moon.
However, Professor Pollacco warns that there could be many undiscovered asteroids out there that could penetrate the atmosphere and hit the surface, with some scientists thinking that an event like this may be overdue. The asteroid was discovered by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov on January 21 and was analysed by NASA’s Scout Impact Hazard Assessment System, predicting its close approach.
So, while 2023 BU may have caused a stir with its close proximity, it serves as a reminder of the mysterious and unpredictable universe that surrounds us and the importance of continued monitoring and discovery of objects in our solar system.