PARIS: An asteroid big enough to destroy a city is scheduled to zoom between Earth and the moon in the coming hours, but astronomers assure there is no threat of collision.
The large rock, named 2023 DZ2, was only discovered in late February.
Its estimated diameter is between 40 and 100 metres, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.
Such a fly-by "happens only about once per decade," wrote Nasa's Planetary Defence Coordination Office on Twitter, adding that the track of 2023 DZ2 takes it "safely" past Earth.
At its closest point to our planet - expected at 19:50 GMT on Saturday - the asteroid will be about 168,000 km away, according to the ESA. By comparison, the moon is 384,400 km from Earth.
With a clear sky, the asteroid can be observed with binoculars or a telescope.
"There is no chance of this 'city killer' striking Earth, but its close approach offers a great opportunity for observations," said the ESA's planetary defence chief, Richard Moissl.
The agency put the chance of 2023 DZ2 hitting Earth within the next century at zero.
Last week, the UN-endorsed International Asteroid Warning Network decided it would take advantage of the close look, carrying out a "rapid characterisation" of 2023 DZ2, Moissl said.
That means astronomers around the world will analyse the asteroid with a range of instruments such as spectrometers and radars. The goal is to find out just how much we can learn about such an asteroid in only a week, Moissl said. It will also serve as training for how the network "would react to a threat" possibly heading our way in the future, he added. - Agencies