On Saturday, the 2023DZ2 will come within a third of the Earth’s distance from the moon.
A large asteroid will zoom safely between Earth and the moon on Saturday, a once-in-a-decade event that will be used as a training exercise for planetary defense efforts, according to the European Space Agency.
Named 2023 DZ2, the asteroid is estimated to be 40 to 70 meters (130 to 230 feet) across, about the size of the Parthenon, and big enough to wipe out a major city if it were to hit our planet.
At 19:49 GMT on Saturday, it will come within a third of the Earth’s distance from the moon, said Richard Moissl, the head of the ESA’s planetary defense office.
While that is “very close”, there is nothing to worry about, he told AFP news agency.
Small asteroids fly by every day, but one of this size coming this close to Earth only happens about once every 10 years, he added.
The asteroid will pass 175,000 km (109,000 miles) from Earth at a speed of 28,000 kilometers per hour (17,400 miles per hour). The moon is about 385,000 km (239,228 miles) away.
An observatory on La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, first spotted the asteroid on Feb. 27.
Last week, the United Nations-backed International Asteroid Warning Network decided it would take advantage of the close look by conducting a “rapid characterization” of 2023 DZ2, Moissl said. That means astronomers around the world will analyze the asteroid with a range of instruments such as spectrometers and radars.
The goal is to find out how much we can learn about such an asteroid in just a week, Moissl said. It will also serve as training for how the network “would respond to a threat” that may come our way in the future, he added.
The asteroid will swing past Earth again in 2026, but poses no threat of impact for at least the next 100 years — that’s how far its trajectory has been calculated.