Time-lapse images show bus-sized asteroid zoom "very close" to Earth at over 2,000 mph

Expert stresses the importance of monitoring comets and asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth

An Italian astronomical observatory captured images of an asteroid flying past Earth on Sunday and created a time-lapse of the event, showing the asteroid traveling at over 2,000 miles per hour. 

The asteroid passed "very close" to Earth, wrote the Virtual Telescope Project. The project uses robotic telescopes to capture real-time images, and is operated by the Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory in Italy. The manager of the project is Dr. Gianluca Masi, an astrophysicist and astronomer who has discovered minor planets and stars in his studies. The project makes its images of the sky available for free around the world. 

The image showing the asteroid pass by Earth was a 60-second single exposure, the project said, using a robotic unit that was able to track the asteroid. Images were broadcast live and in real-time. 

The robot tracked the rates of the asteroid, making it appear as a single, sharp dot while stars blur by. The asteroid traveled at two and a half times the speed of sound, according to the Virtual Telescope Project. 

The asteroid, identified as MU2, appears small in the images but was estimated to be about 4.1 - 9.2 meters (13.5 - 30.1 feet) in diameter, according to NASA data. The asteroid was discovered by the International Astronomical Union Minor Planet Center on June 16, and then confirmed on June 22. 

While there were no risks to the planet while the asteroid flew by, it did come come as close as 134,000 miles of Earth at one point, the Virtual Telescope Project said. This is less than 60% of the average distance between the Earth and the moon, the project added. 

Near-Earth asteroid 2023 MU2 very close encounter: online observation – 25 June 2023 by The Virtual Telescope Project on YouTube

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