A small rock called 2024 BJ will fly past Earth and the Moon in just a few days. It was discovered only last week, on January 17, and will approach our planet on Saturday, January 27. The object is estimated to be 25 meters (82 feet) across and is a near-earth object. It won’t get anywhere close to us this week – at least, relatively speaking.
While the flyby is close in cosmic terms, 2024 BJ is flying 353,000 kilometers (220,000 miles) away. That’s 92 percent of the average distance between the Earth and the Moon. The object will first approach the Moon (although even further away than our planet) at around 2 pm UTC and then reach its close passage to Earth about three and a half hours later. A video livestream is being organized by our friends at The Virtual Telescope Project.
2024 BJ is among the 158 new space rocks discovered since the beginning of the year, and one of the 119 Apollo types. These are objects that cross the orbit of the Earth at their closest point to the Sun but whose orbit goes much further out. In fact, 2024 BJ gets slightly closer to the Sun than our planet does, but then extends well beyond the orbit of Mars.
Humans are getting better at discovering potentially hazardous asteroids in advance and before they get too close, although sometimes the warnings come just minutes before. Just this weekend, a meteor was predicted to hit the atmosphere over Germany, only the eighth time this type of prediction has happened.