WASHINGTON (KXAN) — Scientists looking to observe asteroids will get a rare chance this weekend.
According to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, a newly discovered asteroid — which is known as a Near-Earth Object — will “safely” pass within only 100,000 miles on Saturday.
NASA defines Near-Earth Objects as “comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighborhood.”
The office says the asteroid, named 2023 DZ2, measures between 140 feet and 310 feet in diameter.
“While close approaches are a regular occurrence, one by an asteroid of this size (140-310 ft) happens only about once per decade, providing a unique opportunity for science,” the office said.
The asteroid, which was first observed on Jan. 14, will pass between the Earth and the Moon’s orbit.
It is considered to be an Apollo-class asteroid, meaning its diameter is less than 10 kilometers in size. These asteroids’ orbits pass through Earth’s orbit but take longer to complete an orbit of the sun.
The asteroid will be closest to Earth at 2:51 p.m. CST on Saturday, March 25. However, the best time to observe the asteroid will be early evening Friday by looking southeast.
Because of the proximity of this asteroid to Earth, NASA classifies it as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid, so defined “based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth,” the agency says.
NASA says the current known number of asteroids — which are rocky, airless remnants left behind from the early formation of our solar system — is 1,276,146.