Asteroid big enough to destroy a city flying close to Earth

Asteroid Flyby (Gianluca Masi)
Asteroid Flyby (Gianluca Masi)

A vast asteroid, big enough to destroy a whole city, is coming closer to Earth.

The space rock will fly between Earth and the Moon, marking an extraordinarily close approach for such a large asteroid. While objects fly so close with some regularity, they are really this large.

Scientists say there is no chance that the asteroid will cause any harm to Earth. But it will provide an important opportunity for researchers to study it from relatively close-up.

Saturday’s close encounter will offer astronomers the chance to study a space rock from just over 100,000 miles (168,000 kilometers) away. That’s less than half the distance from here to the moon, making it visible through binoculars and small telescopes.

While asteroid flybys are common, NASA said it’s rare for one so big to come so close — about once a decade. Scientistsestimate its size somewhere between 130 feet and 300 feet (40 meters and 90 meters).

Discovered a month ago, the asteroid known as 2023 DZ2 will pass within 320,000 miles (515,000 kilometers) of the moon on Saturday and, several hours later, buzz the Indian Ocean at about 17,500 mph (28,000 kph).

“There is no chance of this ‘city killer’ striking Earth, but its close approach offers a great opportunity for observations,” the European Space Agency’s planetary defense chief Richard Moissl said in a statement.

Astronomers with the International Asteroid Warning Network see it as good practice for planetary defense if and when a dangerous asteroid heads our way, according to NASA.

The Virtual Telescope Project will provide a live webcast of the close approach.

The asteroid won’t be back our way again until 2026. Although there initially seemed to be a slight chance it might strike Earth then, scientists have since ruled that out.

Additional reporting by agencies