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'Extraordinary' Video Shows Asteroid Passing 'Extremely' Close to Earth

Newsweek 1/27/2023 Aristos Georgiou
Stock image: Artist's illustration of an asteroid flying past the Earth. The asteroid 2023 BU made one of the closest approaches to Earth on record Thursday. © iStock Stock image: Artist's illustration of an asteroid flying past the Earth. The asteroid 2023 BU made one of the closest approaches to Earth on record Thursday.

An astronomer has captured "extraordinary" footage of an asteroid that made an "extremely close" approach to the Earth on Thursday.

The space rock, known as 2023 BU, zoomed over the southern tip of South America yesterday, while it was only around 2,200 miles above the surface of the Earth.

This is one of the closest approaches of an near-Earth object ever recorded. Data from NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies showed that the flyby of 2023 BU was the fourth-nearest of more than 35,000 past and future Earth close approaches in the 300-year period from 1900 to 2200.

As the asteroid flew past our planet, astronomer Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) managed to capture some images. The VTP is a service provided by the Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory in Ceccano, Italy, that operates and provides access to robotic, remotely operated telescopes.


"We managed to capture this extraordinary footage, showing such an extremely

close and fast asteroid," Masi told Newsweek.

Masi captured the images with the "Elena" robotic telescope unit, which is capable of tracking the very fast motion of asteroids flying past Earth. The images used to create the time-lapse video were captured when 2023 BU was around 13,600 miles above the surface of our planet.

To put 2023 BU's flyby into context, its minimum approach distance was less than 3 percent of the average distance between the Earth and our moon. The asteroid also passed well within the orbits of geostationary satellites, which circle the Earth above the equator at an altitude of around 22,000 miles.

By some definitions, the asteroid even passed through Earth's "exosphere," which may extend 120,000 miles above the Earth. The exosphere is sometimes referred to as the outermost part of the Earth's atmosphere, which gradually merges with the vacuum of space. But the gases in this region are very low in density and many scientists do not consider it to be a true part of the atmosphere.

Even if 2023 BU had been on a collision course with Earth, it would likely have caused no damage on the ground, most probably burning up in the atmosphere on account of its size. The CNEOS data shows that the object measures only between 12.4 and 27.8 feet across.

According to NASA, space rocks measuring smaller than 25 meters across (around 82 feet) will most likely burn up if they enter the Earth's true atmosphere, causing little to no damage on the ground.

2023 BU was only discovered on January 21, but astronomers were able to quickly refine its orbit and determine that there was no chance it would collide with our planet this time around.

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