A small asteroid is flying very close to Earth on Thursday night, less than a week after astronomers discovered the object. The New York Times reports:
The asteroid, named 2023 BU, was scheduled to pass over the southern tip of South America at 7:27 p.m. Eastern time. The asteroid is fairly small -- less than 30 feet across, about the size of a truck -- and will be best visible in the skies to the west of southern Chile. For space watchers unable to view 2023 BU firsthand, the Virtual Telescope Project will be broadcasting the event on its website and YouTube channel. The asteroid will not hit Earth but will make one of the closest approaches ever by such an object, hurtling past Earth at just 2,200 miles above its surface, according to a news release from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This encounter puts the asteroid "well within the orbit of geosynchronous satellites," the statement noted, but the asteroid is not on track to hit any.
2023 BU was unknown to NASA, or anyone, until last Saturday. Gennadiy Borisov, an amateur astronomer in Crimea, noticed the asteroid from the MARGO Observatory, a setup of telescopes that he has used to discover other interstellar objects. Astronomers then determined 2023 BU's orbit around the sun and impending trip past Earth using data from the Minor Planet Center, a project sanctioned by the International Astronomical Union. It publishes positions of newly found space objects, including comets and satellites, from information of several observatories worldwide.