Asteroid 2023 BU Is a 'Near-Earth' Asteroid

Photo:  frantic00 (Shutterstock)
Photo: frantic00 (Shutterstock)

On Thursday, Jan. 26, Asteroid 2023 BU will buzz by the earth. The asteroid is small, less than five meters wide, but it’s coming in close. The space rock will be passing by at around 2,178 miles above the atmosphere—a near miss in cosmic terms—and will be closest to us at 4:17 p.m. ET.

Asteroid 2023 BU takes it title of “near-Earth asteroid” seriously. The wee cosmic visitor will stream by within the distance of about a quarter of all manmade satellites in geostationary orbit. It will probably not crash into them and destroy the world’s communications networks, plunging humanity into new dark age of savagery, but I’m going to watch it anyway, just in case. I have my eye on you, 2023 BU. No funny business.

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No naked-eye viewing—telescopes only

Because it’s a small, dim little baby, you will not be able to see 2023 BU without the help of a powerful telescope, but there happen to be extremely powerful telescopes pointed at it that will live stream asteroid porn right to your computer. The Virtual Telescope Project is planning a broadcast on its website and YouTube channel beginning on Thursday at 2:15 p.m. ET, although the asteroid’s perihelion, the moment it is closest to the sun, isn’t until 4:17 p.m.

An Apollo-type asteroid, 2023 BU visits earth about every 425 days, and it has for millennia...but no one noticed the humble fella until this Saturday, when astronomer Gennadiy Borisov from the MARGO Observatory in Crimea identified it. I hope he yelled “Eureka!”

If you have some other asteroid to watch on Thursday, you’ll be able to check out 2023 BU again on December 6, 2036, when it makes its triumphant return.

“But what if they’re lying and the asteroid is headed right for us?”

First, they’re not lying, but secondly, if the path of this particular asteroid was a little different, and it was headed at earth, we’d still be safe. It’s small enough that it would burn up in the atmosphere. Whether some other undiscovered monster asteroid is barreling towards us right now remains to seen. But let’s not dwell on that possibility.

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