An asteroid large enough to wipe out a city will streak between the Earth and the Moon’s orbit this weekend without harming either celestial body.
Saturday’s approach will give astronomers the opportunity to study the space rock from a distance of just over 168,000 km. This is less than half the distance from Earth to the Moon, meaning it can be seen with binoculars and small telescopes.
Asteroid flybys near Earth are very common, but NASA has said that such a large asteroid rarely comes this close – about once every decade.
Scientists estimate its size to be somewhere between 40 and 90 meters.
Discovered a month ago, an asteroid known as 2023 DZ2 will pass within 515,000 km of the moon on Saturday and fly over the Indian Ocean at about 28,000 km/h in a few hours.
“There is no chance that this ‘city killer’ will hit the Earth, but its close approach provides an excellent opportunity for observation,” said Richard Moissle, head of planetary defense at the European Space Agency.
Astronomers from the International Asteroid Warning Network see the event as good practice for planetary defense.
The Virtual Telescope project will be live webcasting the rendezvous.
The next time an asteroid will be near Earth is in 2026.
Although it was originally assumed that the object could collide with the Earth, however, scientists ruled this out.