A newly discovered asteroid will make a “very close” approach to the Earth on Friday—and you can watch the space rock zooming through space live online.
The asteroid, known as 2023 EY, will reach a minimum distance to our planet of around 149,000 miles on March 17, figures from NASA‘s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) show.
While this may seem far away, in astronomical terms, this is considered to be a close encounter. To put the flyby into context, the space rock will zoom past us at less than two-thirds the average distance between the Earth and the moon.
The asteroid is estimated to measure around 56 feet across, NASA figures show, making it comparable in size to a house.
Despite the fact that it will fly past Earth on Friday, 2023 EY was only discovered on March 13—just four days before its encounter with our planet. The asteroid was spotted by a telescope at the Sutherland Observing Station in South Africa.
Stock image: Artist’s illustration of an asteroid flying past Earth. A newly discovered asteroid will make a “very close” approach to the Earth on Friday. iStock
The asteroid is one of more than a dozen that have approached the Earth within one lunar distance—an average of 238,855 miles away—this year. All of these space rocks, including 2023 EY, have been small, harmless asteroids.
The orbit of 2023 EY has been calculated accurately so there is no chance that the object will collide with our planet. But if an asteroid of this size was on a collision course with Earth, there would be little to worry about.
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.
At the time of its close approach, 2023 EY will be traveling at approximately 18,100 miles per hour. This is about nine times as fast as a rifle bullet.
The Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) will be providing a live stream that will enable viewers to watch the asteroid as it zooms past the Earth. The director of the project, Gianluca Masi, described the approach as “very close” in an email to Newsweek.
The VTP is a service provided by the Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory in Ceccano, Italy, that operates and provides access to robotic, remotely operated telescopes.
The live stream will begin at 12 a.m. Universal Coordinated Time on March 17, or 8 p.m. Eastern Time on March 16.
The VTP also hosted a live stream of another small asteroid that made an even closer approach in January this year and Masi managed to capture some “extraordinary” images.
This space rock, known as 2023 BU, flew past us at an altitude of only around 2,500 miles above the ground.
This flyby was the fourth nearest of more than 35,000 past and future Earth approaches in the CNEOS database, which contains data covering the 300 years from 1900 to 2200. The approach was less than 3 percent of the average distance between the Earth and the moon.