Asteroid Flew Closer To Earth Last Week Than Ever Before, NASA Announces
An asteroid roughly the size of a London bus recently flew within 230 miles of Earth.
According to NASA, this is the closest known asteroid to fly past the planet without hitting it.
The space rock, known as 2020 VT passed near the Earth’s surface on November 13, at 5.20am.
Given its close proximity to Earth, the asteroid has been deemed a Near-Earth Object (NEO) but was not considered hazardous.
Due to its size, roughly between 16 and 32 feet wide, it would likely have broken up in the atmosphere into a fireball before reaching the planet, as Fox News reports.
In order to be deemed ‘potentially hazardous’, a NEO must measure more than 460 feet in diameter, according to NASA. There are currently more than 18,000 known NEOs.
The asteroid was first discovered by Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, an astronomical survey and early warning system funded by NASA, 15 hours after its closest approach to Earth.
The 2020 VT overtakes a previous record set in August this year when another asteroid, 2020 QG, passed approximately 1,830 miles above the Earth’s surface.
The SUV-size asteroid measured roughly 10 to 20 feet, which NASA said is ‘very small by asteroid standards’.
Paul Chodas, the director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said at the time that many tiny asteroids like this one approach the Earth several times a year.
‘In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two,’ he said.
It’s really cool to see a small asteroid come by this close because we can see the Earth’s gravity dramatically bend its trajectory. Our calculations show that this asteroid got turned by 45 degrees or so as it swung by our planet.
Chodas said NASA is continually improving its asteroid surveys and that it can now expect to find smaller asteroids days before they reach close proximity to the Earth.
In 2005, the US Congress assigned NASA the goal of finding 90% of the near-Earth asteroids that are about 460 feet or larger in size.
Congress said these larger asteroids pose a much greater threat to our planet if they were to impact. Luckily, due to their size, they can be detected much farther away from Earth because they are much brighter than smaller asteroids.
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