NASA-funded survey detects closest known asteroid to fly by Earth

2020-08-19 Xinhua Editor:Gu Liping

A NASA-funded asteroid survey has detected an SUV-size space rock flying past Earth over the weekend, which is the closest known nonimpacting asteroid ever detected, said NASA on Tuesday.

The asteroid, named 2020 QG, passed 1,830 miles (2,950 km) above the southern Indian Ocean on Sunday at 12:08 a.m. EDT.

At roughly 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters) across, the asteroid is very small by asteroid standards. If it had actually been on an impact trajectory, it would likely have become a fireball as it broke up in Earth's atmosphere, which happens several times a year, said NASA.

The asteroid was detected by the Zwicky Transient Facility, a sky-scanning survey telescope funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA, located at Palomar Observatory in San Diego County.

There are hundreds of millions of small asteroids the size of 2020 QG, but they are extremely hard to discover until they get very close to Earth. The vast majority of Near Earth Asteroids pass by safely at much greater distances -- usually much farther away than the Moon, according to NASA.

"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," said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "Our calculations show that this asteroid got turned by 45 degrees or so as it swung by our planet." Enditem

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