How to watch 'city killer' asteroid pass closer to Earth than the Moon

Will we be able to see the space rock, and is there any chance it might strike our planet? ITV News' Shehab Khan explains

An asteroid big enough to wipe out a city is set to pass harmlessly between Earth and the moon's orbit this weekend, missing both celestial bodies.

The close encounter will give sky-gazers the chance to catch a glimpse of the space rock from just over 100,000 miles (168,000 kilometres) away.

The asteroid will first pass the moon on Saturday, several hours later it will whizz past the Indian Ocean at about 17,500 mph (28,000 kph).

DZ2 was first discovered in February by astronomers at the La Palma observatory in the Canary Islands, Spain. It has been watched ever since by astronomers.

How big is the 'city killer' asteroid?

Asteroid flybys are usually a common occurrence, but NASA have said it is rare for one this big to come so close to the planet.

Dubbed 2023 DZ2 by scientists, it's passing is thought to be once in a decade celestial event.

Thought to be somewhere between 40-90 meters in diameter, the giant space rock was spotted about a month ago.

Most asteroids start out at a size of 2 meters (or 6 1/2 feet).

“There is no chance of this ‘city killer’ striking Earth, but its close approach offers a great opportunity for observations,” the European Space Agency’s planetary defence chief Richard Moissl said in a statement.

Asteroid 2023DZ2 identified by the arrow in the centre, while it was around 1.1 million miles from Earth. Credit: AP

How to watch the asteroid pass Earth

Rocketing past Earth at a distance of just 100,000 miles (168,000 kilometres), the asteroid at some points will be less than half the distance from here to the Moon.

This will make it possible for amateur astronomers to spot the asteroid through binoculars and small telescopes.

The asteroid will be at its closest point to Earth on March 25 at around 7.15pm GMT.

According to space website EarthSky, those watching the asteroid through a telescope from the Northern Hemisphere will see what looks like a slow-moving star.

NASA has calculated that 2023 DZ2 will be brightest for stargazers in Southeast Asia on Saturday at about 5.20pm GMT.

It will be east of the constellations of Orion, Canis Major, and Canis Minor.

However, even without the necessary equipment people can still catch a glimpse of its passing. A virtual telescope project has been set up by the Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory in Italy, where people can tune in via a livestream that begins on Saturday evening.

NASA will also be keeping tabs on its trajectory through its "Eyes on Asteroids" 3D Visualisation Tool.

The asteroid won’t be back our way again until 2026. Although there were initially concerns of a slight chance it might strike Earth then, scientists have since ruled that out.Astronomers with the International Asteroid Warning Network see it as good practice for planetary defence if - and when - a dangerous asteroid heads our way, according to NASA.

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