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Asteroid to pass between Earth and moon in 17,500mph close encounter

An asteroid big enough to wipe out a city will hurtle between Earth and the moon's orbit this weekend in a close encounter visible through binoculars and small telescopes.

The chunk of space rock measuring up to 300ft (90m), around the size of Westminster's Elizabeth Tower (316ft or 96m) which houses Big Ben, will fly by at about 17,500mph.

Passing at around 100,000 miles (168,000km) - less than half the distance between Earth and the moon - will give astronomers the chance to study the "city killer" asteroid at close quarters.

While such cosmic encounters are common, NASA said it's rare for one so large to come so close - about once a decade.

Discovered a month ago, the asteroid known as 2023 DZ2 will harmlessly buzz the planet on Saturday, before heading back off into the solar system.

European Space Agency's planetary defence chief Richard Moissl said: "There is no chance of this 'city killer' striking Earth, but its close approach offers a great opportunity for observations."

Scientists with the International Asteroid Warning Network view it as good practice for planetary defence if and when a dangerous asteroid does pose a threat, according to NASA.

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The Virtual Telescope Project will provide a live webcast of the close approach.

The asteroid is due to return in 2026 and although there initially appeared to be a slight chance it might strike Earth then, scientists have since ruled it out.