2023 DZ2 Large asteroid between Earth and Moon

A large asteroid will pass between Earth and Moon today Saturday, an event that will take place almost every decade and will be used as a training exercise for planetary defense efforts, according to the European Space Agency.

2023 dz2

The asteroid, called 2023 DZ2, is estimated to be 40 to 70 meters wide, about the size of the Parthenon, and is large enough to obliterate a large city if it were to hit our planet.

At 19:49 GMT on Saturday it will reach its closest point of distance from Earth to the Moon, said Richard Moissl, head of ESA's planetary defense office.

Although this is "very close", there is nothing to worry about, he told AFP.

The asteroid will pass 175.000 kilometers above the Earth at a speed of 28.000 kilometers per hour. The moon will be about 385.000 kilometers away.

An observatory in La Palma, one of Spain's Canary Islands, first spotted the asteroid on February 27.

Last week, the UN's international asteroid warning network decided it could benefit from the close pass, Moissl said.

So astronomers around the world will analyze the asteroid with a range of instruments such as spectrometers and radars.

The goal is to learn as much as we can about such an asteroid in a week, Moissl said.

It will also serve as training on how the network would "react to a threat" we might have in the future.

Moissl said preliminary data suggest 2023 DZ2 is "a scientifically interesting object," indicating it could be a somewhat unusual type of asteroid. But he added that more data is needed to determine its composition.

The asteroid will pass by Earth again in 2026, but poses no impact threat for at least the next 100 years, as far as its orbit has been calculated.

Earlier this month, a similar-sized asteroid, 2023 DW, was given a one-in-432 chance of hitting Earth on Valentine's Day 2046.

But further calculations ruled out any possibility of an impact, which is common with newly discovered asteroids.

Last year, NASA's DART spacecraft slammed into the pyramid-sized asteroid Dimorphos, knocking it off course in the first such test of our planetary defenses.

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