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200-foot asteroid 2023 DZ2 to pass closer than moon

200-foot asteroid 2023 DZ2 to pass closer than moon

Asteroid 2023 DZ2 will safely pass by Earth at about half the Earth-moon distance. Image via NASA.

Yet another newly discovered space rock will safely zip past Earth, this one on March 25, 2023. It’ll sweep by at about half the Earth-moon distance. Astronomers at the observatory of La Palma, in the Canary Islands, Spain, discovered the asteroid in late February, 2023. And amateur astronomers might get a glimpse of the asteroid as it speeds past. See the charts at the bottom of this post.

Closest approach to Earth is thought to occur at around 19:31 UTC (3:31 p.m. EDT) on March 25. But the exact time and other details might be updated as more observations come in.

The asteroid has been labeled 2023 DZ2. It’s part of the Apollo family of asteroids. Current estimates put 2023 DZ2’s size at about 210 feet (64 meters) in diameter.

As of March 17, 2023, there were only 56 observations of the new asteroid’s orbit spanning 18 days. New observations will better define the space rock’s orbit and should allow scientists to get a more precise estimate of its size, which could be between 157 and 361 feet (48 and 110 meters) in diameter.

For comparison, the asteroid that entered over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013 was a space rock around 65 feet (20 meters) in diameter. Watch a video of size comparisons in asteroids here.

2023 DZ2 is classified as a NEO (Near Earth Object). It orbits the sun every 3.17 years.

Small risk of impact in 2026

As is the case with many newly discovered asteroids – whose orbits are incompletely known – preliminary analysis of the space rock’s trajectory suggests a very unlikely 1-in-7,700 chance that the asteroid will impact Earth on March 28, 2026.

But – with further observations – it’s likely astronomers will rule out even this small risk.

Visible in small telescopes

Asteroid 2023 DZ2 will pass 0.5 lunar distance (half the Earth-moon distance) from Earth’s surface. The relative closeness will enable observers to see the space rock in six-inch (15cm) and larger diameter telescopes.

The space rock is traveling at a speed of 17,426 miles per hour (28,044 km/h), or 7.79 km/second, relative to Earth. While it sounds like a huge speed relative to what we’re familiar with on Earth, it’s a relatively slow asteroid in contrast to other space rocks that astronomers study.

Since the asteroid will be passing at half the Earth-moon distance, the small distance will make it appear as a “slow-moving star” in the field of a small telescope. And you may even be able to detect its motion in real time!

One of the best techniques sky enthusiasts use to catch an asteroid is to point the telescope at a known star in the asteroid’s path. Then just wait for the slowly moving space rock to appear. Fortunately, many small telescopes now include a computerized Go-To hand control. Thus, you can point the instrument at a reference star to get a glimpse of the passing object.

When is the best time to see asteroid 2023 DZ2?

We found the best time to see asteroid 2023 DZ2 from the Northern Hemisphere will be early on the night of Friday, March 24, 2023. Good luck, and clear skies to you!

Here’s a wide view of the sky on Friday, March 24, 2023. From a Northern Hemisphere location, look above the southeastern horizon. For all of us around the globe, the asteroid will be east of the constellations Orion, Canis Major and Canis Minor. Visit Stellarium online for a precise view of these constellations on March 24 from your location on Earth. Illustration via Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium.
A closer view. Observers using a computerized or Go-To telescope can point their instrument at one of these reference stars around 8:35 p.m. CDT on March 24, 2023, to try to spot asteroid 2023 DZ2. The asteroid should appear as a “slow-moving star” passing in front of the fixed stars in the sky. Illustration via Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium.
Around 9:20 p.m. CDT on March 24, 2023, asteroid 2023 DZ2 should pass close to star HIP 44831 as seen from our perspective. Illustration via Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium.
On the night of March 24, 2023, you might be able to see the space rock’s motion in real time through a telescope. Around 11 p.m. CDT on that date, asteroid 2023 DZ2 will be passing close to reference star HIP 45578. Illustration via Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium.

Bottom line: Newly discovered asteroid 2023 DZ2 will safely pass Earth at less than half the distance of the moon on March 25, 2023. People with telescopes should be able to spot the visitor.


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