Astronomers today spotted an asteroid flying extremely close to Earth

A small bus-sized asteroid will make an extremely close approach to Earth on Thursday (July 7), flying within just 56,000 miles (90,000 kilometers) — or about 23 percent of the average distance between Earth and the Moon. And just a few days ago, no one knew it was coming

The asteroid, named 2022 NF, is expected to safely pass our planet, according to calculations by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Astronomers spotted the sneaky asteroid using data from the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) – a system of cameras and telescopes in Hawaii with the main goal of detecting near-Earth objects, or NEOs.

On July 4, researchers identified the object and calculated its approximate size and trajectory, estimating that the space rock was between 18 and 41 feet wide (5.5 meters and 12.5 meters) at its longest dimension.

Related: Why Do Asteroids Have Such Weird Shapes?

Because of its small size, 2022 NF doesn’t meet NASA’s criteria for a “potentially hazardous asteroid,” generally being at least 460 feet (140 meters) long and within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million kilometers) of Earth The sister site of Live Science Space.com.

While the newly discovered asteroid will sail far within that distance, it is far too small to be considered an existential threat to Earth.

Although the asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth on July 7, it will be visible to some telescopes beginning Wednesday (July 6); The Virtual Telescope Project will broadcast the asteroid’s flyby live from its telescope in Rome starting at 4:00 p.m. EDT (08:00 UTC).

You can get involved by clicking here on the Virtual Telescope Project website.

NASA and other space agencies are closely monitoring thousands of NEOs like this one. They rarely pose a threat to Earth – but some large asteroids could prove dangerous should their orbits change.

In November 2021, NASA launched an asteroid-deflecting spacecraft called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will make a head-on impact with the 160m-wide Dimorphos asteroid in fall 2022.

The collision won’t destroy the asteroid, but it may slightly alter the space rock’s orbit, Live Science previously reported. The mission will help test the viability of the asteroid deflection should a future asteroid pose an imminent threat to our planet.

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This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.