Small asteroid becomes closest ever to pass Earth: NASA


Washington (AFP)

An SUV-sized asteroid has passed 2,950 kilometers above Earth, the closest asteroid on record passing near our planet, NASA said Tuesday.

Had it been on a collision course with Earth, the asteroid – named 2020 HQ – likely wouldn’t have caused any damage, instead disintegrating in the atmosphere, creating a fireball in the sky, or a meteor. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said in a statement.

The asteroid, which measured around 10 to 20 feet (three to six meters), passed over the southern Indian Ocean on Sunday at 0408 GMT.

It was moving at nearly eight miles per second (12.3 kilometers per second), well below the geostationary orbit of about 22,000 miles in which most telecommunications satellites fly.

The asteroid was first recorded six hours after its approach by the Zwicky Transient Facility, a telescope at the California Institute of Technology’s Palomar Observatory, as a long trail of light across the sky.

The US space agency said asteroids of similar size cross the Earth at a similar distance several times a year.

But they are difficult to record, unless they are heading directly for the planet, in which case the explosion in the atmosphere is usually noticed – as in Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013, when an object exploded about 20 meters long broke. windows for miles, injuring a thousand people.

One of NASA’s missions is to keep an eye out for the larger asteroids (460 feet) that might actually pose a threat to Earth, but their equipment tracks the smaller ones as well.

“It’s really cool to see a small asteroid come so close, because we can see the Earth’s gravity bending its course dramatically,” said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at The NASA.

According to JPL calculations, the asteroid rotated about 45 degrees due to Earth’s gravitational pull.


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