‘City killer’ asteroid will zoom past Earth tonight, from a safe distance

Illustration of the asteroid 2012 DA14, which brushed past Earth in February 2013 without hitting it

NOS NewsSaturday, 13:55

When hearing “2023 DZ2” not everyone may think of space rocks and telescopes. In that respect, the term used by the European space agency ESA speaks more to the imagination: city killer. Tonight, an asteroid with that nickname will brush past Earth – without actually destroying cities, by the way.

The name city killer has to do with the size of the boulder, which according to scientists has a diameter of 40 to 100 meters. Asteroids of that magnitude are capable of causing massive damage if they hit Earth. But while 2023 DZ2 is relatively close to Earth tonight, in space terms, astronomers are ruling out that scenario.

Can be seen around 8:50 p.m

The ESA expects the asteroid to fly by at an altitude of about 168,000 kilometers, less than half the distance between the Earth and the moon. The object will probably be closest to Earth at about 8:50 PM Dutch time and the space rock can then be seen with a small telescope or binoculars. The Virtual Telescope Project is also offering a live stream tonight.

Although asteroids skim past Earth more often, according to NASA, boulders as large as the 2023 DZ2 are less common, according to NASA. According to the US space agency, this happens about once every ten years.

Earlier we made this overview of the chance that the earth will be hit by an asteroid:

The asteroid passing by tonight was discovered a month ago. The space rock will continue to orbit the sun, and then likely return above Earth in 2026.

Initially, scientists thought that there was a chance that the stone would hit the earth, but they have now changed their mind. The earth will therefore not be in danger even in three years’ time.

A large asteroid impact on Earth is very rare. But according to the ESA, small and medium-sized space rocks can also cause a lot of damage. For example, in 2013 an asteroid about 17 to 20 meters exploded over Chelyabinsk in Russia. It released about 20 to 30 times as much energy as the Hiroshima atomic bomb, astronomers estimate. Flying debris after the blast injured about 1,200 people.

The most famous asteroid impact is that of about 65 million years ago. Then a space rock called ‘Chicxulub’, which was about 10 kilometers in diameter, heralded the end of the life of dinosaurs.