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Amateur Astronomer Spots Dangerous Asteroid Just Days Before It Flies Past Earth

by : Cameron Frew on : 14 Sep 2020 18:36
Amateur Astronomer Spots Dangerous Asteroid Just Days Before It Flies Past EarthAmateur Astronomer Spots Dangerous Asteroid Just Days Before It Flies Past EarthNASA

Mere days before a massive, dangerous asteroid flew past Earth, it was spotted by an amateur astronomer in Brazil. 

Think about the film Deep Impact, the other world-ending disaster blockbuster released shortly after Armageddon. As Elijah Wood sat on the hilltop, staring up above, he noticed something bizarre in the sky. Of course, it turned out to be the most devastating object the planet had seen since the end of the dinosaurs.

Amazingly, this isn’t too dissimilar to that moment. On August 27, while gazing at the skies at the the Campo dos Amarais observatory near São Paulo, Leonardo Amaral discovered ‘Asteroid 2020 QU6’.

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ASTEROID 2020 QU6 Planetary SocietyASTEROID 2020 QU6 Planetary SocietyLeondardo Amaral/The Planetary Society

While the kilometre-wide asteroid would create ‘global devastation’ if it hit our planet, it fortunately missed us by 40 million kilometres on September 10, more than 100 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

Bruce Betts, chief scientist for The Planetary Society, said in a statement:

In the news, we hear more and more frequently about asteroid discoveries primarily because we are getting better at finding and tracking near-Earth asteroids. There aren’t suddenly more asteroids, we’re just getting better at seeing them.

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In 2019, Amaral was awarded an $8,500 grant from The Planetary Society to purchase more effective telescope equipment, key in the search for near-Earth objects that may be otherwise missed.

Casey Dreier, chief advocate and senior space policy adviser for The Planetary Society, added: ‘This discovery reminds us that even though we’ve found most large NEOs, we haven’t found all of them. We must continue to support ground-based astronomers and invest in new space-based capabilities like NEOSM in order to protect Earth now and in the future.’

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Science, Asteroid, Astronomers, Astronomy, Brazil, Campo dos Amarais, Leonardo Amaral, Space, The Planetary Society

Credits

The Planetary Society
  1. The Planetary Society

    Planetary Society Grant Winner Discovers Large Near-Earth Asteroid