Newly discovered RV-sized asteroid whizzes by, leaves Earth unscathed

New York Daily News

Sep 24, 2020 2:04 PM

Asteroid 2020 SW came anywhere from 13,000 miles to 17,556 miles from Earth’s surface this morning at 7:18 Eastern time, but posed no danger. It was only discovered last week.

Asteroid 2020 SW came anywhere from 13,000 miles to 17,556 miles from Earth’s surface this morning at 7:18 Eastern time, but posed no danger. It was only discovered last week. (NASA)

A bus-sized asteroid whizzed by Earth Thursday morning, less than 20,000 miles from Earth’s surface.

Small asteroid 2020 SW, as it was named upon being discovered last week, had zero chance of hitting us. But it served as a reminder of the millions of space rocks out there that could.

Depending on whose estimate you went by, the asteroid came anywhere from 13,000 miles to 17,556 miles from Earth’s surface, reported the Associated Press and Earthsky.org, respectively.

Either distance is well below many of the communications satellites currently in orbit, AP said.

It hurtled by at 17,336 mph, Earthsky said. It sped overhead in the vicinity of Australia and New Zealand during its closest approach, as seen in this depiction by NASA.

Once it’s gone, the asteroid won’t be back to Earth’s neighborhood until 2041.

At just 15 feet by 30 feet, this asteroid was considered “puny,” AP noted. Such asteroids burn up in our atmosphere ever year or two, Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told AP.

Moreover, it was just one of a possible 100 million space rocks like it. In fact, it didn’t have anything on the space rock that almost hit us in August. That one, the car-sized 2020 QG missed us by a mere 1,830 miles, Scientific American reported. It was the closest known flyby that for an asteroid to survive intact, Scientific American said.

Nonetheless, it could be disconcerting to know that an asteroid whose existence humanity did not know about until last Friday was passing just 7% of the moon’s distance away.

Indeed, of much more danger to space missions is humanity’s own space junk. Just this week the International Space Station had to dodge a satellite shard, NASA said Tuesday, assuring the public that “at no time was the crew in any danger.”

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