NASA last year successfully completed its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, crashing a vending machine-sized spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorpho. The agency said Friday that an Olympic swimming pool-sized asteroid that is due to pass by Earth tomorrow poses no risk. File Photo by NASA/UPI | License Photo
March 24 (UPI) -- A newly discovered asteroid roughly the size of an Olympic swimming pool will make a close approach to Earth tomorrow giving scientists a rare chance to train for any future threat from celestial bodies, NASA said.
The 140-foot to 310-foot asteroid, designated 2023 DZ2, will hurtle safely past at a distance of at least 100,000 miles, the agency's Asteroid Watch said in a Twitter post Tuesday.
The Center for Near Earth Object Studies said that while close approaches were a regular occurrence, one by an asteroid of this size happened only about once per decade, providing a "unique opportunity for science."
"Astronomers with the International Asteroid Warning Network are using this close approach to learn as much as possible about 2023 DZ2 in a short time period -- good practice for planetary defense in the future if a potential asteroid threat were ever discovered," NASA said.
The asteroid, which was only discovered last month, will streak between Earth and the moon at 17,400 mph Saturday at about 3.50 p.m. EST.
But it will be at its most visible to stargazers with access to small telescopes -- with a diameter of at least six inches -- in the northern hemisphere this evening, said astronomers in the Canary Islands who first spotted 2023 DZ2 and have been tracking it ever since.
The asteroid had posed a very slight risk of impact with Earth on March 27, 2026, according to EarthSky, but CNEOS removed it from its "Sentry" impact prediction system Tuesday.
Sentry's impact tables keep a running catalog of all space objects that pose any risk of colliding with Earth in the next 100 years.
Eathsky advised that the best technique to view an asteroid is to point the telescope at a known star in the asteroid's path and wait for the slowly moving space rock to appear. The computerized "Go-To" hand control on most modern telescopes should allow users to just point it at a reference star to get a glimpse of the passing object.