Watch: UAE astronomers track massive asteroid that whizzed near Earth in rare flyby

The celestial object, which has been referred to as 'city killer', reached a distance less than half of that between us and the Moon


Sahim Salim

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Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

Published: Sun 26 Mar 2023, 12:48 PM

Last updated: Sun 26 Mar 2023, 10:09 PM

An asteroid large enough to wipe out a city has whizzed past Earth safely in one of the rarest close transits for an object its size. The recently-discovered celestial object, 2023 DZ2, was captured on camera by UAE-based astronomers as it sailed within 165,000km from Earth.

This is less than half the distance between Earth and Moon.

In the video shared by the Abu Dhabi-based International Astronomy Centre, the asteroid appears to move swiftly through the starry skies of the UAE capital.

According to Nasa, close approaches are a regular occurrence, but “one by an asteroid of this size (140-310 feet) happens only about once per decade”.

Referring to the asteroid as a ‘city killer’, the European Space Agency’s planetary defence chief Richard Moissl had stressed that there was no chance it would strike Earth. However, its close approach offers a “great opportunity for observations”, he said in a statement, according to AP.

Nasa Asteroid Watch tweeted that astronomers with the International Asteroid Warning Network are using the close approach to learn as much as possible about 2023 DZ2 in a short time period. This is “good practice for #PlanetaryDefense in the future if a potential asteroid threat were ever discovered”.

The agency was referring to its Planetary Defense Coordination Office that provides early detection of potentially hazardous objects (PHOs) and coordinates planning for response to an actual impact threat.

UAE-based astronomers had highlighted earlier how the space rock could be viewed with telescopes and binoculars.

According to the AP report, the asteroid won’t be back this way again until 2026. “Although there initially seemed to be a slight chance it might strike Earth then, scientists have since ruled that out,” the report added.

Space agencies have developed contingency plans to deal with potentially hazardous asteroids. In September last year, Nasa slammed its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft intentionally into a 580-foot asteroid Dimorphos, successfully altering its orbit. This marked humanity’s “first time purposely changing the motion of a celestial object and the first full-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection technology”, the agency had said then.


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