Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) — An asteroid big enough to destroy a city zipped harmlessly between the orbits of Earth and the moon this weekend, missing both celestial bodies.
Saturday’s close encounter will give astronomers a chance to study a space rock 100,000 miles (168,000 kilometers) away. It’s less than half the distance from here to the Moon, visible through binoculars and small telescopes.
While asteroid flybys are common, it’s rare for one this big to come this close once a decade, NASA said. Scientists estimate its size to be 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 will whiz by the Indian Ocean at 17,500 mph (28,000 kph).
“This ‘city killer’ has no chance of hitting Earth, but its close approach provides an excellent opportunity for observations,” said Richard Moisle, head of planetary protection at the European Space Agency, in a statement.
Astronomers with the International Asteroid Warning Network, according to NASA, consider it good practice to protect the planets in case a dangerous asteroid heads our way.
The Virtual Telescope Project will provide a live webcast of the close approach.
The asteroid won’t return our way again until 2026. Although it initially seemed likely that it would hit Earth, scientists have since ruled it out.
The Associated Press receives support from the Health and Science Department of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media Group. AP is solely responsible for all content.
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