Record shave: asteroid the size of a London bus missed Earth by just 240 miles on Friday the 13th – but no one spotted it until the next day
- The rock – named 2020 VT4 – was seen 15 hours after it passed by
- It was discovered by the asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System in Hawaii.
- The body, 16 to 33 feet wide, would have been burned if it got much closer
- It is the second asteroid to break the record for closest proximity this year
An asteroid the size of a London bus missed Earth by only 386 km on Friday the 13th – but wasn't discovered until the next day, astronomers have announced.
The space rock – named "2020 VT4" – was not discovered until 15 hours after its closest approach by the Last Alert system with terrestrial asteroid impact on Mauna Loa, Hawaii.
If it had come much closer, the 5 to 10 m wide body – as estimated from its brightness – would have burned in the atmosphere over the South Pacific.
Its orbit put it roughly the same distance from Earth as the International Space Station – making it the closest asteroid to have passed Earth so far.
An asteroid the size of a London bus missed Earth by only 386 km on Friday the 13th – but was not discovered until the next day, astronomers have announced (archive image)
Prior to being named 2020 VT4, the asteroid was originally called A10sHcN.
"The newly discovered asteroid A10sHcN approached Earth yesterday and passed just a few hundred miles above the South Pacific," wrote astronomer Tony Dunn, who runs the Orbit Simulator website, on Twitter.
"This encounter shortened the orbit and made this earth cruiser come close more often."
According to experts, an asteroid would have to be at least 25 meters in diameter to cause localized damage to the earth's surface – and about 1 to 2 kilometers to have an impact on a global scale.
For comparison, Earth scientists believe the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago was about 7.5 miles wide.
In contrast, an impactor would likely have to be 60 miles wide to completely eradicate the existence of life on our planet.
The newly discovered asteroid A10sHcN approached Earth yesterday and passed just a few hundred miles over the South Pacific. This encounter shortened its orbit and ensured that this Earth cruiser would get close more often.https: //t.co/TmkzojIzPf pic.twitter.com/XrnKiiGTyJ
– Tony Dunn (@ tony873004) November 14, 2020
The VT4's orbit in 2020 (shown in white) placed it roughly the same distance from Earth (shown in blue) as the International Space Station, making it the next recorded asteroid visitor
This is not the first time this year that a space visitor has broken the record for the closest asteroid to go by.
In August, the asteroid 2020 QG passed only 1,830 miles from Earth – and NASA astronomers only discovered it after it had passed.
The rock crossed the Indian Ocean at the same distance from the surface of the earth as the drive from Copenhagen in Denmark to Málaga in Spain.
Slightly smaller than the 2020 VT4, the 2020 quality control had a diameter of 1.8 to 5.5 m. Objects of this size approach our planet every year.
The 2020 QG was similar in size to another asteroid that entered Earth's atmosphere – the 9-12 feet in diameter & # 39; 2018 LA & # 39; that reached us on June 2, 2018.
This space rock burned down over Africa – and when tiny fragments hit the ground, no damage or injury was reported.
Coincidentally, 2020 VT4 is not the only asteroid visiting Earth on a Friday April 13th. The 300 meter wide body called Apophis is expected to pass near us on Friday April 13, 2029.
Coincidentally, 2020 VT4 is not the only asteroid visiting Earth on a Friday the 13th. The 300 meter wide body called Apophis is expected to pass near us on Friday April 13, 2029. In the picture an artistic impression of Apophis the earth
Astronomers look for asteroids larger than 450 feet because they can cause "catastrophic damage".
Researchers have discovered most asteroids that are about a kilometer tall, but are now looking for those that are about 140 m tall – as they could cause catastrophic damage.
While no one knows when the next big impact will happen, scientists are under pressure to predict and intercept their arrival.
Pictured artist's impression
"Sooner or later we will … have a small or large influence," said Rolf Densing, head of the European Center for Space Operations (ESOC) in Darmstadt
It may not happen in our lives, he said, but "the risk that the earth will one day be hit in a devastating event is very high."
"At the moment there is little we can do."
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