Newly Discovered Asteroid Passes Earth Closer Than Moon Right Now: ScienceAlert

Don’t be alarmed, but as you read this, an asteroid the size of a house is zooming past Earth.

Depending on your location, the newly discovered asteroid 2023 EY will pass our planet late Thursday night or Friday morning at a distance of just 240,000 kilometers (149,000 miles) — a little less than two-thirds the distance to the Moon.

It may sound uncomfortably close, but the space is large. A spot like 2023 EY poses no threat to any of us.

At just 16 meters (52 feet) in diameter, it is about the same size as the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Siberia in 2013 and caused a number of injuries with its shock wave. Fortunately, 2023 EY won’t even enter our atmosphere.

Still, its proximity presents a cool opportunity. Although the asteroid is not bright enough for us to see with the naked eye, it will be visible through telescopes.

The Virtual Telescope Project will live stream the flyby, starting at 00:00 UTC, Friday, March 17. It is at 20:00 EDT, Thursday, March 16 and 11:00 AEDT, Friday, March 17.

The images will be taken by a 17-inch robotic telescope in Ceccano, central Italy, and the closest approach is expected to take place at 00:35 UTC Friday, March 17. You can see below.

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What’s particularly cool is that this asteroid was only discovered on Monday, March 13.

It was picked up by a telescope at the Sutherland Observing Station in South Africa – which is one of four telescopes that make up the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) network, established by the University of Hawaii and funded by NASA to provide an asteroid- impact system for early warning.

With two telescopes in Hawaii, one in Chile and one in South Africa, the goal of ATLAS is to be able to get at least a few days’ notice before an asteroid comes uncomfortably close to Earth.

And now that we know we can successfully throw an asteroid off course using rockets, thanks to the recent DART mission, this advanced warning will be crucial.

2023 EY is classified as an Apollo NEO or near-Earth object. This is the largest group of NEOs we currently know of, with 17,540 Apollo asteroids in February 2023.

Chart showing the position of the 2023 EY at 00:00 UTC, Thursday, March 16. (NASA)

The Apollo asteroids are named after 1862 Apollo, an asteroid discovered by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth in the 1930s. They all have orbits larger than Earth’s around the Sun, but their paths cross Earth’s.

Nearly 2,000 of the Apollo asteroids have been identified as potentially hazardous asteroids, which sounds scary but basically means objects larger than about 150 meters in size that can come within 7.5 million kilometers (4.6 million miles) from Earth.

2023 EY is not in this size range, but is still on NASA’s Asteroid Watch Dashboard due to its close approach.

So don’t stress. Instead, enjoy taking a moment to watch live when a large space rock comes close enough for us to wave as it continues its long journey around the Sun.

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