West News Wire: Fortunately for us, an asteroid large enough to destroy a metropolis missed both the Earth and the Moon as it passed between their orbits.
A month ago, the object, designated 2023 DZ2, was found.
It flew past the Moon on Saturday and then came within 175,000 kilometers of the Earth, as predicted by astronomers.
It is unusual for an asteroid with a diameter estimated to be between 40 and 90 meters to pass so close to the earth.
It was described by astronomers as a once-every-ten-years phenomenon.
If a potentially harmful object with the potential to strike Earth were found, it would be crucial for astronomers to learn more about asteroids, according to NASA.
“There is no chance of this ‘city killer’ striking Earth, but its close approach offers a great opportunity for observations,” said the European Space Agency’s planetary defence chief, Richard Moissl.
Mr Moissl said preliminary data suggested 2023 DZ2 was “a scientifically interesting object”.
But he added that more data was needed to determine the asteroid’s composition.
With such a close pass of the Earth, the asteroid was visible through binoculars and small telescopes across the globe.
A live web broadcast of its approach was provided by The Virtual Telescope Project.
The object looks set to return towards Earth’s orbit in 2026, but scientists have ruled it out as a threat to the planet on that occasion, too.
Earlier this month, a similarly sized asteroid, 2023 DW, was briefly given a one-in-432 chance of hitting Earth on Valentine’s Day 2046.
Moissl said 2023 DW was now expected to miss Earth by some 4.3 million km.
Even if such an asteroid was determined to be heading our way, Earth is no longer defenceless.
Last year, NASA’s Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft deliberately slammed into the pyramid-sized asteroid Dimorphos.
Before Dart’s impact, it took Dimorphos 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit its larger parent asteroid, Didymos.