A newly found asteroid about the same size size of a house will pass between the Earth and the Moon on Friday, March 17, 2023.
Only discovered on Monday, March 13, the asteroid measures about 56 ft./17 meters in diameter—about the same size as the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded as a fireball over the town in Siberia in 2013. That “super-bollide” came without any warning.
The asteroid, called 2023 EY, is on NASA’s regularly updated “Asteroid Watch Dashboard,” which hosts a constantly updated list of incoming asteroids that are predicted to get within 4.6 million miles/7.5 million kilometers of Earth. That’s 19.5 times the distance to the Moon.
It might sound a big distance, but large asteroids that come that close are defined as a potentially hazardous object.
However, the smaller—and completely non-threatening—2023 EY will get to within a fraction of that. It will pass a mere 149,000 miles/240,000 kilometers from Earth. That’s slightly less than two-thirds of the Earth-Moon distance.
If you want to see the event live tune-in to The Virtual Telescope Project’s WebTV page and YouTube channel at at 00:00 UTC on March 17 (20:00 EDT on March 16) for live views through a 17-inch robotic telescope in Ceccano, central Italy.
2023 EY is an Apollo-type asteroid. Asteroids are rocky leftovers from the formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. Mostly they hang out in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. However, Apollo asteroids are a class of objects (named for asteroid 1862 Apollo), which have an orbit that is larger than Earth’s orbit around the Sun and their path crosses Earth’s path.
2023 EY was discovered just four days before the predicted close pass by a telescope at the Sutherland Observing Station South Africa, which began operations a year ago. It’s one of four telescopes in the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) network, an asteroid impact early warning system developed by the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy and funded by NASA.
Asteroids range in size from 33 feet/10 meters in diameter to the biggest known of all, Vesta—the brightest asteroid visible from Earth—at 329 miles/530 kilometers, according to NASA.