Tennis-court sized asteroid to just miss Earth tomorrow – we noticed it 10 days ago

Earth will have a close encounter with an asteroid this weekend (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Soaring past the Earth on Saturday is an asteroid the size of a tennis court.

But don’t worry – it won’t cause a racquet (sorry, not sorry). 

Asteroid 2024 BJ will glide past us at just 220,000 miles away, closer than the Moon ever gets. Luckily there’s no chance of a lunar collision either.

It has been dubbed a near-Earth asteroid as it will pass within 28 million miles of Earth’s orbit, but in reality is getting far, far closer.

It will be at its closest point at 5.30pm on Saturday, before it travelling on towards the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. 

Sadly for amateur astronomers, it won’t be visible to the naked eye, but you can watch the asteroid’s fly-by on a video live stream hosted by The Virtual Telescope Project, starting at 5:15pm.  

Worryingly, although 2024 BJ will be flying close to the Earth, astronomers only detected the flying rock just 10 days ago, on January 17 – because it’s coming from the direction of the Sun.

This means we’re effectively blinded to them until the very last minute.

The space rock will pass Earth and make its way towards the asteroid between Jupiter and Mars (Picture: Getty)

The European Space Agency estimates there could be around a million asteroids as big as 30 to 100 metres near Earth, with 98.9% of them still undiscovered for this reason. 

Just last week an asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere over Berlin that was detected only three hours before it arrived. Luckily it was only a metre wide, and Nasa hailed its detection system a success.

Last year an asteroid the size of a 20-storey building swept past the planet – and no one noticed until two days later.

In 2013, around 1,500 people were injured by the Chelyabinsk meteor, a 19-metre wide object that also snuck into our atmosphere after coming from the direction of the Sun.

The meteor exploded over the Russian town with energy equivalent to about 500 kilotonnes of TNT, roughly equivalent to30 Hiroshima bombs, and briefly burned brighter than the Sun. Most of the injuries were caused by flying shards of glass blown out in the blast.

Last year, Nasa successfully successfully deployed its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a planetary defence system designed to knock asteroids off course.


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