An asteroid a bit smaller than a football field will streak harmlessly past Earth at a relatively close distance of 107,500 miles on Saturday, a spectacle that happens about once every 10 years, skywatchers say.
The asteroid designated 2023 DZ2 will pass about halfway between the Earth and the moon’s orbit at a speed of about 17,403 mph, astronomers said. It’s an estimated 140 to 310 feet in diameter.
It’s calculated to come closest to Earth at 3:51 p.m. EDT.
How can I see asteroid 2023 DZ2?
Those in the Northern Hemisphere with a 6-inch telescope, or a telescope with a 6-inch-wide mirror, should be able to see the asteroid, livescience.com says. Larger telescopes provide a better view.
2023 DZ2 will appear to be a slow-moving star over the southeastern horizon, according to EarthSky.
The Virtual Telescope Project will livestream the asteroid at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday.
Where did the asteroid come from?
Because of its orbit, 2023 DZ2 is considered an Apollo asteroid, or near-Earth asteroid. Those objects’ elliptical orbits take them from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter to within 94.5 million miles of the sun.
2023 DZ2 orbits the sun once every 3.16 years.
There are more than 1,600 Apollo asteroids, according to the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. Most of them are smaller than 6 miles in diameter.
Is 2023 DZ2 considered dangerous?
The asteroid will pass Earth harmlessly this year, but for a while it had a 1-in-38-million chance to hit Earth on March 27, 2026, EarthSky said.
Asteroids travel in space, become meteors when they enter a planet’s atmosphere and are known as meteorites after they hit the ground.
But if it did hit Earth, what would happen?
A house-sized asteroid, smaller than 2023 DZ2, entered Earth’s atmosphere, burned up and exploded about 14 miles above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on Feb. 15, 2013.
The Chelyabinsk asteroid was estimated at 65 feet in diameter. The resulting flash was brighter than the sun, and the blast had the energy of about 500 kilotons of TNT, about 30 times more powerful than the 1945 Hiroshima bomb.
Buildings were damaged and windows were blown out over 200 square miles. About 1,600 people were injured, most of them from broken glass.
What’s the difference between an asteroid and a meteor?
- Asteroid: A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the sun.
- Comet: A relatively small, at times active, object whose ice can vaporize in sunlight, forming an atmosphere of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust or gas.
- Meteoroid: A small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the sun.
- Meteor: The light phenomena that results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.
- Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands on the Earth’s surface.
CONTRIBUTING Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY
SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; NASA; earthsky.org; Jet Propulsion Laboratory; livescience.com; virtualtelescope.eu; International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center; theskylive.com