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Huge asteroid will soar between Earth and the moon this weekend

NASA says while close approaches like this are common, one by an asteroid this large "happens only about once per decade."

WASHINGTON — A newly discovered asteroid is set to zoom past Earth this weekend — but despite its relatively close approach, there's no need to worry. 

The space rock, called 2023 DZ2, will make its closest approach to Earth on Saturday, Mar. 25. According to NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies, the asteroid will swing by at a safe distance of more than 108,750 miles — a little less than half the moon's average distance from Earth. 

NASA estimates that 2023 DZ2 is anywhere from 134 to 301 feet in diameter. 

The agency's official Asteroid Watch social media account says while close approaches like this are common, one by an asteroid this large "happens only about once per decade, providing a unique opportunity for science."

According to EarthSky, 2023 DZ2 was discovered in February by astronomers at the observatory of La Palma in the Canary Islands. Its closest approach is estimated at about 3:51 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, March 25.

"Astronomers with the International Asteroid Warning Network are using this close approach to learn as much as possible about 2023 DZ2 in a short time period - good practice for #PlanetaryDefense in the future if a potential asteroid threat were ever discovered," NASA Asteroid Watch said on Twitter.

Will asteroid 2023 DZ2 impact Earth?

Previously, scientists believed the newly discovered asteroid presented a risk of impacting Earth on Mar. 27, 2026. On Tuesday, officials removed the asteroid from NASA's Sentry risk table, a system that continually monitors asteroids for possibilities of impact with Earth over the next 100 years. 

Asteroid 2023 DW

2023 DZ2 wasn't the only new asteroid recently discovered. In late February, scientists at an observatory in Chile spotted asteroid 2023 DW, which had a "very small chance of impacting Earth" on Valentine's Day in 2046. 

The asteroid is about 161 feet in diameter, according to NASA. The notable space rock initially landed on NASA's impact monitoring list and the European Space Agency's risk list. 

An asteroid the size of 2023 DZ2 or 2023 DW would "likely cause local damage to the impact area," according to NASA.

As of Mar. 22, both 2023 DZ2 and 2023 DW were removed from NASA's Sentry risk list. 

What would happen if an asteroid hit Earth?

While no current asteroid poses a high-level risk for colliding with Earth, NASA is constantly exercising ways to defend the planet. 

Last year, the space agency tested its Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft, otherwise known as DART, to provide insight on planetary defense. DART successfully slammed into a harmless asteroid, knocking it into a changed orbit in September 2022. 

The mission proved to be a success and raised hopes that we might have a fighting chance if a killer asteroid ever comes Earth's way.  

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