A small asteroid called 2023 BU will fly past Earth tonight at the closest distance ever recorded, according to the U.S. space agency NASA.
According to NASA, the truck-sized asteroid will pass over the southern tip of South America at 4:27 p.m. PT on January 26 (January 27, 02:27 a.m. ET), just 3,600 km above the surface of the planet and around geostationary orbits.
NASA noted that there is no risk of the asteroid colliding with the Earth. A press release from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration also clarified:
“But even if it did, this small asteroid, 3.5 to 8.5 meters in diameter, would have turned into a fireball and disintegrated harmlessly in the atmosphere, and some of the larger fragments could have potentially fallen as small meteorites.”
The asteroid was discovered by Gennady Borisov, an amateur astronomer from Crimea, on January 21 this year. He noted that on January 26, residents of the Southern Hemisphere will be able to observe the object, even with amateur telescopes.
2023 BU is small and, as mentioned above, poses no danger to the Earth. However, not all asteroids are so small. An asteroid can be very large and, upon reaching Earth, can cause serious destruction. To avoid such a scenario, NASA's DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission was successfully conducted last fall. The DART probe encountered Dimorph orbiting Didym to see if it was possible to artificially alter the asteroid's orbit.
The results of the DART mission exceeded all expectations. According to scientists, the collision should have changed the constellation's rotation time by about 73 seconds, but in fact it changed by 32 minutes, and now one full revolution takes 11 hours and 23 minutes. The results of this mission are considered a turning point in the history of planetary defense because it showed that a collision with a spacecraft can actually change the course of a star system.
However, there are so-called asteroids that can kill a planet, which are difficult to detect because they "hide" in the light of the Sun and telescopes cannot detect them. One such asteroid (2022 AP7) was discovered in November 2022. That is why last year the Chinese proposed a new warning system for dangerous asteroids. Chinese researchers proposed deploying a new system consisting of six spacecraft in Venus-like orbits, whose purpose would be to detect and warn of potentially threatening asteroids as soon as possible.