Here’s how close asteroid 2023 BU will come to Earth’s surface

Asteroid will pass Thursday night just after 7 p.m., so get your telescopes ready

Big drama is happening a hairline above the Earth’s surface as a newly discovered asteroid will whiz by incredibly close to us.

The asteroid was discovered Saturday (Jan. 21) and is one of the closest near misses.

What are the chances an asteroid is going to hit Earth? Michael Narlock, the head of astronomy at the Cranbrook Science Center, says there’s a 100% chance.

But in terms of something that should have us scrambling, this is not the one.

The asteroid streaking a razor-thin line above the Earth’s surface Thursday (Jan. 26) evening is not a dinosaur-caliber event. Still, it does give us a fantastic opportunity to open the curtain of the universe for a peek inside.

“It was given the fantastic name of 2023 BU,” said Michael Narlock.

Narlock explained to Local 4 how it is as the asteroid was only recently discovered and not even by a big science institution.

“Objects of this size regularly interact with the Earth about once every five years,” Narlock said. “Objects of this size hit every year, and they burn up. But the question that everybody asks is, ‘Well, why did we just see this on Saturday?’ The sad reality is the eyes in the sky are generally done by amateur astronomers. What makes this particularly harrowing is how close it’s going to get to the Earth, about 2,000 miles.”

“It is very fascinating and scary, but you wonder how many times in the past has this happened and we weren’t aware of it,” said Mary Ellen.

Citizen scientists reported it to the proper authorities, and of course, the Jet Propulsion lab run by NASA corroborated the information and the trajectory that said, this thing is getting close, I mean really close.

Our communication and GPS satellites hover in the neighborhood of 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface.

That is a good point and right on target because it’s not unusual for asteroids to come this close to us, and this is another opportunity to open the curtain on our universe.

“The solar system is full of this type of debris, and that’s really what it is,” Narlock said. “It’s the leftover stuff from the formation of the solar system. It’s as old as the solar system.”

And size-wise, it’s about the size of a small bus. The good news is, had it not been discovered, we probably wouldn’t have even known about it as it poses no threat, and it’s small enough that if it did break through our atmosphere, it would burn up on impact.

And if it didn’t burn up on impact, scientists would likely be able to gauge the trajectory and warn people to get out of the way, unlike the dinosaurs. But there is a but in there.

“It’s nothing to worry about as it’s going to go by us,” Narlock said. “It’s an interesting thing and in two days you’ll forgotten about it, until the next one. And there will be a next one.”

The asteroid will pass Thursday night just after 7 p.m., so get your telescopes ready.

About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.