Asteroid to make one of the closest approaches to Earth ever

The asteroid is predicted to speed through South America at 1:27pm NZT on Friday.
The asteroid is predicted to speed through South America at 1:27pm NZT on Friday. Photo credit: NASA

An asteroid about the size of a delivery truck will pass Earth in what's estimated to be one of the closest encounters ever recorded.

NASA said on its website the asteroid will speed over South America at 4:27pm Pacific Standard Time on Thursday (1:27pm Friday NZT).

But there is no chance it will hit Earth. NASA said it will fly 3600 kilometres above the Earth's surface and within the orbit of geosynchronous satellites.

Even if it did come closer to us, scientists said most of it would burn up in the atmosphere and larger pieces would possibly fall as meteorites.

NASA's impact hazard assessment system, called Scout, predicted the near-miss of 2023 BU, the official name of the asteroid.

"Scout quickly ruled out 2023 BU as an impactor, but despite the very few observations, it was nonetheless able to predict that the asteroid would make an extraordinarily close approach with Earth," said Davide Farnocchia, an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded."

The asteroid was discovered by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov from his observatory in Nauchnyi, Crimea, on Saturday. There were dozens more observations by astronomers around the world over the next few days.

The asteroid's path will be drastically altered by Earth's gravity as it races by. So instead of circling the sun every 359 days, the asteroid will move into an oval orbit lasting 425 days, NASA said.