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An asteroid is coming near the Earth this week – here’s how to see it

NASA says it will be one of the nearest misses ever recorded

Amy Houghton
Written by
Amy Houghton

From Quadrantids meteor shower to the once-in-a-lifetime green cometthe solar system really has been spoiling us lately. And now yet another cosmic spectacle is set to pass Earth this week: an asteroid. It’s thought to be roughly the size of a London bus and is due to be one of the nearest misses ever recorded. 

Asteroid 2023 BU will whizz by at just 3,506 km above the Earth’s surface – a minuscule distance in astronomical terms (for comparison, most satellites orbit at an altitude of 35,800 km). Here’s everything you need to know if you want to catch a glimpse.

When will the asteroid hit the Earth?

Experts have ruled out any possibility of a collision, so calm down, no need to stock up on canned goods and hide out in a bunker. Even if it did head towards Earth, NASA says that its size means it would be little threat as any asteroid smaller than 82ft is likely to burn up when it enters the atmosphere. 

How can I watch the asteroid?

Most asteroids aren’t bright enough to be seen without a powerful telescope so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to see it with the naked eye. However, stargazers will be able to watch a live-stream hosted by the Virtual Telescope Project that starts tomorrow (January 26) at 7.15pm GMT. According to NASA, the asteroid will be closest to Earth at 12.27am.

What exactly is an asteroid?

Asteroids are small rock formations that orbit the sun, mostly within the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. They are sometimes called ‘minor planets’ and are essentially bits of rubble left from the formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago. This particular asteroid is known as an Apollo asteroid, meaning it passes near our planet. 

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