Two asteroids flew over Earth on Monday (September 14), in both cases showing a common occurrence that didn’t put our home planet at risk.
The first space rock, a bus-sized asteroid called 2020 RF3, flew from our planet 94,000 kilometers away at 2:49 am EDT (0649 GMT), according to the Jet Propulsion Center for Near-Earth Object Studies NASA Laboratory. This is the distance equivalent to a quarter of the distance to the Earth’s Moon, a distance of 239,000 miles (385,000 km).
A few hours later, an asteroid smaller than the size of a 2020 RD4 car made a similar close pass at 65,700 miles (approximately 106,000 km), at 4:33 pm. EDT (2033 GMT), added the center. The Virtual Telescope Project in Italy also hosted a live streaming for the RD4 2020 event.
Video: Asteroids the size of cars and buses whiz across Earth on the same day
Related: Potentially dangerous asteroids (images)
Asteroids pass close to Earth many times a year, as there are many thousands of them in our solar system. NASA and a network of telescopes keep an eye out for dangerous space rocks through entities such as NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Fortunately, no immediate threats to Earth were found.
There are some recorded cases of asteroids causing damage throughout Earth’s history, which is why space experts keep an eye on the skies. A recent notorious accident saw a six-story object smash through Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013, causing damage to buildings and some injured. More famously, the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago is usually attributed to a much larger object that landed on our planet.
In addition to watching for threatening objects, astrophysicists study asteroids to learn more about how the first solar system was formed. Asteroids and the icy objects known as comets are remnants of our cosmic neighborhood before most of the material coalesced into the planets and moons we see today.
Scientists regularly study asteroids with telescopes and, wherever possible, use spacecraft data to supplement their understanding. Two spacecraft are preparing to bring asteroid samples back to Earth soon, which is very rare.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is scheduled to land on asteroid Bennu on October 20 and return the sample to Earth in September 2023. Meanwhile, the Japanese Aerospace exploration has its own mission, Hayabusa2, which is en route from the asteroid Ryugu for a landing on Earth on December 6.
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