200-foot asteroid 2023 DZ2 passed closer than moon

Diagram: Earth at center, moon with circular orbit, plus a red line of asteroid's path passing between them.
Asteroid 2023 DZ2 safely passed by Earth at about half the Earth-moon distance on March 25, 2023. Image via NASA.

Yet another newly discovered space rock safely zipped past Earth, this one on March 25, 2023. It swept by at about half the Earth-moon distance. Astronomers at the observatory of La Palma, in the Canary Islands, Spain, discovered the asteroid in late February 2023. And amateur astronomers were able to get a glimpse of the asteroid as it sped past. See the charts at the bottom of this post.

Closest approach to Earth was around 19:51 UTC (3:51 p.m. EDT) on March 25.

The asteroid has been labeled 2023 DZ2. It’s part of the Apollo family of asteroids. Estimates put 2023 DZ2’s size at about 210 feet (64 meters) in diameter.

For comparison, the asteroid that entered over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013 was a space rock around 65 feet (20 meters) in diameter. Watch a video of size comparisons in asteroids here.

2023 DZ2 is classified as a NEO (Near Earth Object). It orbits the sun every 3.16 years.

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No risk of impact in 2026

For a while, this new asteroid posed a very slight risk of impact with Earth on March 27, 2026. Fortunately, as of March 21, 2023, officials have removed it from the Sentry Risk Table, saying they are:

…able to rule out previous potential impacts as no longer consistent with the observations.

Streaks of light on gray background with one dot in the middle and arrows pointing to it.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Filipp Romanov captured this image of asteroid 2023 DZ2 using a remote camera at Abbey Ridge Observatory, Canada, on March 21, 2023. Thank you, Filipp!

Visible in small telescopes

Asteroid 2023 DZ2 passed 0.5 lunar distances (half the Earth-moon distance) from Earth’s surface. The relative closeness enabled observers to see the space rock in six-inch (15-cm) and larger diameter telescopes.

The space rock was traveling at a speed of 17,403 miles per hour (28,008 km/h), or 7.78 km per second, relative to Earth. While it sounds like a huge speed relative to what we’re familiar with on Earth, it wa a relatively slow asteroid in contrast to other space rocks that astronomers study.

Since the asteroid passed at half the Earth-moon distance, the small distance made it appear as a “slow-moving star” in the field of a small telescope.

One of the best techniques sky enthusiasts use to catch an asteroid, is to point the telescope at a known star in the asteroid’s path. Then they just wait for the slowly moving space rock to appear. Fortunately, many small telescopes now include a computerized Go-To hand control. Thus, you can point the instrument at a reference star to get a glimpse of passing asteroids.

When was the best time to see asteroid 2023 DZ2?

We found the best time to see asteroid 2023 DZ2 from the Northern Hemisphere was early on the night of Friday, March 24, 2023.

Star chart showing bright stars of winter and red hashmarks for location of asteroid 2023 DZ2.
Here’s a wide view of the sky on Friday, March 24, 2023. Visit Visit Stellarium for a precise view of these constellations on March 24 from your location on Earth. Illustration via Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium.
A few stars, 2 labeled, and red tick marks around asteroid location.
A closer view. Observers using a computerized or Go-To telescope can point their instrument at one of these reference stars around 1:35 UTC March 25 (8:35 p.m. CDT on March 24) to try to spot asteroid 2023 DZ2. The asteroid should appear as a “slow-moving star” passing in front of the fixed stars in the sky. Illustration via Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium.
A few stars, 2 labeled, and red tick marks showing asteroid location.
Around 2:20 UTC March 25 (9:20 p.m. CDT on March 24), asteroid 2023 DZ2 passed close to star HIP 44831 as seen from our perspective. Illustration via Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium.
Star chart with 1 star labeled and red hashmarks for asteroid.
On the night of March 24, 2023, you could have seen the space rock’s motion in real time through a telescope. Around 11 p.m. CDT (4 UTC March 25) on that date, asteroid 2023 DZ2 passed close to reference star HIP 45578. Illustration via Eddie Irizarry/ Stellarium.

Bottom line: Asteroid 2023 DZ2 safely passed Earth at less than half the distance between the moon and Earth on March 24-25, 2023. People with telescopes were able to spot the visitor.

March 24, 2023

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