Skip to main content

A large asteroid is about to zip between Earth and the moon

A newly discovered asteroid up to 310 feet wide will hurtle between Earth and the moon this weekend at a speed of about 17,000 miles per hour (27,400 kilometers per hour) relative to Earth.

Asteroid 2023 DZ2 was discovered by astronomers at the observatory of La Palma, in the Canary Islands, Spain, on February 27.

The good news is that 2023 DZ2 is going to pass by at a distance of about 100,000 miles, so there’s no risk to communities here on terra firma.

Still, a close encounter with an asteroid this big doesn’t happen very often, so astronomers are understandably pretty excited about it.

“While close approaches are a regular occurrence, one by an asteroid of this size (140-310 feet) happens only about once per decade, providing a unique opportunity for science,” NASA said in a tweet on its Asteroid Watch account.

It added that astronomers with the International Asteroid Warning Network will use the close approach to learn as much as possible about 2023 DZ2, describing the event as “good practice for planetary defense in the future if a potential asteroid threat were ever discovered.”

As part of its ongoing planetary defense efforts, NASA last year crashed a spacecraft into a distant asteroid to see if the force of the collision would alter its course. Initial data suggested that the ambitious DART mission succeeded, providing humanity with a way of better protecting itself against any asteroids that are identified as being on a collision course with Earth.

How to track asteroid 2023 DZ2

As the asteroid will be passing by about halfway between Earth and the moon, it will resemble a slow-moving star if viewed through a small telescope, according to EarthSky.

The site says the best way to spot it will be by pointing a telescope toward a star in the asteroid’s path and then waiting for it to pass through the field of view. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the best chance to spot 2023 DZ2 through a telescope will be early evening on Friday, March 24, clear skies permitting. The Sky Live offers various resources to help you pinpoint the rock as it zips by.

Alternatively, you can track asteroid 2023 DZ2’s progress in real time via NASA’s Eyes on Asteroids website, a powerful 3D visualization tool that tracks all the known asteroids in our solar system.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Scientists observe the aftermath of a spacecraft crashing into asteroid
This artist’s illustration shows the ejection of a cloud of debris after NASA’s DART spacecraft collided with the asteroid Dimorphos. The image was created with the help of the close-up photographs of Dimorphos that the DRACO camera on the DART spacecraft took right before the impact. The DART spacecraft collided with Dimorphos at a speed of over 6 kilometres per second (about 22 000 kilometres per hour). After the impact several telescopes observed the evolution of the cloud of debris, including ESO’s Very Large Telescope.

When NASA deliberately crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid last year, it wasn't only a thrilling test of planetary defense. It was also a unique opportunity for scientists to observe an asteroid system and see the effects of the crash, letting them learn more about what asteroids are composed of. Earlier this month, images of the impact captured by the Hubble Space Telescope were released, and now we can see the impact from another view, captured by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (ESO'S VLT).

The Very Large Telescope is a ground-based set of four telescopes located in Chile, which were able to see the aftermath following the DART spacecraft impacting the asteroid Dimorphos. The images show the cloud of debris thrown up by the impact, called the ejecta, between the time just before the impact on 26 September 2022 all the way through to a month later on October 25. Through this time, the cloud developed clumps and spirals and settled into a long tail formed by radiation from the sun.

Read more
Newly spotted 50-meter asteroid tops Risk List
A depiction of asteroid 2023 DW.

Valentine’s Day 2046 could be memorable for a number of reasons. Not only might you receive a card from an admirer you never knew you had, but you might also witness a large asteroid slamming into Earth and causing widespread devastation.

Hopefully the only delivery anyone will be getting that day is a card, but scientists say that a 49-meter-wide asteroid discovered last week is currently calculated to have a 1-in-625 chance of hitting our planet in a couple of decades from now.

Read more
Astrophysicists propose cooling Earth by using Moon dust as ‘sunscreen’
Earth seen from space,

The world is no stranger to the perilous impact of global warming. Research courtesy of experts at the University of California, Irvine that was published last month warns of an oceanic disaster in the near future due to the current trajectory of climate change. Now, radical new research is proposing a rather odd solution to shield our planet from the Sun’s heat — moon dust.

The brainchild of experts at the University of Utah and the Center for Astrophysics (Harvard & Smithsonian), the idea is to launch dust collected from the moon into a stable orbit, allowing the dust cloud to block some of the sunlight. “Judiciously chosen trajectories allow streams of grains to shade Earth for up to a week,” says the research paper published in PLOS journal.

Read more