Astronomers at The Virtual Telescope Project have captured incredible footage and images of asteroid 2024 BJ as it made a close encounter with Earth on Saturday.
The asteroid whizzed past the Earth, making its closest approach of 353,000 kilometers (220,000 miles), just 10 days after its discovery. At its closest approach, the asteroid was around 92 percent of the average distance between the Earth and the Moon. As well as the distance involved, the Earth was not at huge risk from the object, which is around five giraffes wide. If that figure doesn't make sense to you, IFLScience staff member Eleanor Higgs calculates that that's between 16 and 17 Ariana Grandes.
The Virtual Telescope Project followed the asteroid as it made its closest approach, live-streaming it as well as photographing the object.
If you're here because of the funny name, first we must congratulate you on turning 13 years old, but here is the answer you're looking for. The rock was one of the 156 asteroids that have been discovered by a sky survey in January 2024, hence the "2024" part of its name. The rest of the asteroid's name also gives clues as to when exactly it was discovered.
"The provisional designation includes the year of its discovery followed by two letters that give the order of its discovery during that year," the European Space Agency (ESA) explains. "Objects, discovered between 1 and 15 January, are designated in order of their discovery, AA, AB, AC, and so on. Those discovered between 16 and 31 January are given the letters BA, BB, BC, and so on."
Being the tenth discovered asteroid after January 16, it earned the slightly unfortunate name 2024 BJ.
The name isn't permanent, however. Were later observations to show it is not 2024 BJ after all (for example) but another asteroid which has already been spotted before, the asteroid would be renamed for what it really is. If the asteroid is new, eventually it will be given a permanent name.
"The astronomer who first provides enough observations to calculate the orbit with precision, has the privilege of choosing the name because they are the discoverer," the ESA added.
For now, however, we hope you like the livestream of 2024 BJ.