Update for 3:45 p.m. ET: Virtual Telescope Project Asteroid 2023 BU Webcast Now Scheduled For 4:15 p.m. EST (21:15 GMT) because of the clouds.
A newly discovered asteroid will come very close to Earth this week.
Asteroid 2023 BU measures between 12 and 28 feet wide (3.8 to 8.5 meters) and was just discovered on Saturday January 21 by astronomer Gennadiy Borisov at the MARGO observatory in Crimea. When it passes close to Earth on Thursday, January 26 at 4:17 p.m. EST (21:17 GMT), the space rock will be within 3% of the average Earth-Moon distance at an altitude of just 2 178 miles. (3,506 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface.
For comparison, most geostationary satellites orbit at an altitude of about 22,200 miles (35,800 km).
Most asteroids aren’t bright enough to see without a powerful telescope; luckily, you can watch asteroid 2023 BU make its close encounter with our planet through the Virtual Telescope Project. Astronomer Gianluca Masi will host a free live stream of the asteroid’s passage over the project website (opens in a new tab) or Youtube channel (opens in a new tab) Thursday (January 26) from 3:45 p.m. EST (2045 GMT) after a short delay due to clouds at the Ceccano project observation site, Italy.
Related: Asteroids: Fun Facts and Information About These Space Rocks
The asteroid is currently in the constellation Ursa Major. Due to its small size, asteroid 2023 BU is quite faint at magnitude 19.15, but it could be visible through a powerful telescope operated by a seasoned skywatcher.
Luckily for those of us who aren’t veteran asteroid hunters, the Virtual Telescope Project will stream the whole thing. “Asteroid 2023 BU will have an extremely close, but sure, encounter with us ahead. [within] less than 10,000 km from the center of the Earth, or about 25% of the distance of geostationary satellites,” Masi writes of the project. website (opens in a new tab).
Asteroid 2023 BU is known as an Apollo-like asteroid, which means its orbit crosses that of Earth but spends most of its time well outside our planet’s path, according to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (opens in a new tab), which is based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. 2023 BU orbits the sun every 425 days and will not return near our planet until December 6, 2036.
While asteroid 2023 BU will pass extremely close to Earth, it is not classified as potentially hazardous. Indeed, its small size means it would likely break up and incinerate in Earth’s atmosphere.
Hoping to catch a glimpse of asteroid 2023 BU? Our guides to the best telescopes and the best binoculars might help start you down the road to good optics. You can also check out our guides to the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography to get started.
Editor’s note: If you manage to snap a photo of asteroid 2023 BU and would like to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, and name and location to [email protected].
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