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SPACE NEWS

NASA warn a newly discovered asteroid 2023 DZ2 will closely approach Earth on Saturday

The Earth will have a visitor this weekend from a newly discovered asteroid, almost three times the size of the meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013.

NASA warn of close approach of asteroid Saturday

It’s been an eventful March in space news, from the launching of the sixth joint mission between NASA and Space-X of a crewed mission to the International Space Station to debris from the orbiting scientific platform burning up in the atmosphere over Northern California as well as the discovery of an new asteroid that has the potential to crash into Earth on Valentine’s Day 2046.

Once again, NASA is warning about a visit from another newly discovered asteroid, this one estimated to be about 180 feet in diameter (55 m). However, this one will be here by Saturday. But you don’t need to head down into your bunker. This one, like the other one, will do a fly-by of our beloved planet but will be close enough to see if you have the right gear.

You may be interested in: ‘Planet killer’ asteroid detected: Could it hit the Earth? When?

Asteroid 2023 DZ2 will pass close to Earth on Saturday

The newly discovered asteroid, named 2023 DZ2, was discovered in late February by astronomers at the La Palma observatory in the Canary Islands. It is speeding along at a speed of 17,403 miles per hour (28,008 km/h) relative to Earth, but that is relatively slow by asteroid standards according to EarthSky.

The heavenly body will make its closest approach on Saturday 25 March, estimated to be around 3:51 pm ET (19:51 UTC). 2023 DZ2 is currently calculated to pass our planet safely at less than half the distance of the Moon to Earth. Because it will come so close it should be visible to those using at least a six-inch (15 cm) telescope in the Northern Hemisphere.

Even if 2023 DZ2 were to hit Earth, it wouldn’t be a cataclysmic event but it could cause extreme damage locally were it to explode in the atmosphere. In 2013, a meteor a little less than a third of the size of the newly discovered space rock exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The 66-footer (20 m) generated a shockwave which damaged thousands of buildings and injured roughly 1,500 people as windows exploded.

Asteroids don’t need to be big to be destructive

Most meteors burn up on entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the friction with the air vaporizes them or breaks them in to smaller pieces that are generally not dangerous. Still, every 2,000 years, give or take, a space rock the size of a football field, which is big enough to cause significant local damage, enters our atmosphere. However, even small celestial bodies that enter Earth’s atmosphere can cause extreme damage if they explode before reaching the ground. In 1908, a meteor perhaps 20 meters across detonated over the Siberian forest in Russia. The force of the blast, known as the Tunguska event, was equivalent to that of a 12 megaton bomb and leveled an area of around 830 square miles. Another thought to be of similar size around 3,700 years ago wiped out the city of Tall el-Hammam in the Jordan Valley and the surrounding area couldn’t be farmed for at least 300 years. This event is credited with being the inspiration for the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

To find out just how much damage an Earth impact could cause you can check an online tool provided by the Imperial College of London and Purdue University.

Methods to protect Earth from asteroids

There are international efforts to protect Earth from potential threats from outer space. NASA launched the Double Asteroid Redirect mission, or DART, in 2021 with the intention of changing the orbit of an asteroid. The agency’s spacecraft was on a suicide mission to crash into the smaller moonlet of a binary asteroid system, comprised of Didymos and Dimorphos, about 7 million miles from Earth.

DART reached its target September last year and hit Dimorphos at about 15,000 mph. The mission was a success, altering the asteroid’s orbit around Didymos.