ST. GEORGE – Early Thursday morning a school bus-sized asteroid made a close flyby near Earth. And while many Internet memes have joked about the upcoming election, more objects are heading to Earth just in time for election day.
Thursday’s asteroid, dubbed asteroid 2020 SW, passed within 16,700 of the planet’s surface, which is astronomically closer than the moon’s orbit. According to the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the asteroid is between 14 and 32 feet in diameter and has come about 5,000 miles closer to Earth than any TV or weather satellite, which orbit at 22,300 above the planet̵
The 2020 SW asteroid was discovered last week by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona. While it may seem unusual to discover an object close to Earth a few days before it approaches, it is actually not, the agency says. In September alone, more than 240 near-Earth objects were discovered by the Minor Planet Center.
Although the shift had no effect on Earth, it was a metamorphic event for the asteroid as the planet’s gravity was expected to completely change the course of space rock as it continued its journey out of the solar system.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory also says that after Thursday’s cosmic visit, the 2020 SW asteroid will not return for more than two decades when it is expected to magnify the planet in June 2041. (See ed. Note)
Although the asteroid wasn’t large enough to be seen with the naked eye, it was captured by the Virtual Telescope Project 2.0, which also captured a video of the asteroid’s journey.
A video, courtesy of the Virtual Telescope Project 2.0, along with clips and photos courtesy of NASA, can be viewed at the beginning of this report.
The video was created using a 180-second exposure, shot remotely by “Elena” at Plane Wave, a 17-inch robotic unit that followed the asteroid’s apparent movement. Then, placing 130 frames one after the other, they created the time-lapse video of the space rock.
According to NASA, even if the asteroid were on an impact trajectory with Earth, it would almost certainly crack high in the atmosphere, becoming a glowing fireball that would shoot across the sky.
It’s not unusual for asteroids the size of 2020-SW to approach the planet, Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said in a statement Wednesday.
“In fact, asteroids of this size affect our atmosphere at an average speed of about once a year or two,” he added.
Space fluctuates due to the flight in November
As the country approaches 2020 Election Day, a close encounter with an asteroid could make things even more interesting as the 2018 VP1 asteroid is set to blast off to Earth on November 2.
Fortunately, it is not on a collision course with the planet.
According to Space.com, “There are many threats to democracy; asteroid 2018 VP1 is not one of them. “
Space rock is very small. At just over 6 feet in diameter, it currently has a 0.41% chance of hitting the planet and “poses no threat to Earth.” Even if it did, “it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size,” the Planetary Defense Coordination Office wrote on his Twitter outreach arm Asteroid Watch in August.
Since its discovery in 2018 by the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, the flyby will be the asteroid’s maiden voyage beyond Earth. And while scientists call the event a close approach, the flaming rock will actually be a long way from the planet’s surface – more than 260,000 miles, in fact.
This is slightly farther from Earth than the moon’s orbit, which averages about 238,000 miles from the planet’s surface.
In a strange coincidence, a second asteroid is predicted to approach Election Day closely, according to NASA Center for Studies on Near-Earth Objects.
The largest space rock, dubbed 2020 HF4, is between 4 and 10 times larger, between 26 and 60 feet in diameter, but it also flies significantly farther: 4 million miles from the surface, or about 16 times. the distance of the moon.
Interestingly, there are a total of five close encounters with near-Earth objects expected in November, the latest of which, the 2020 ST-1, will fly by November 14. ST-1 is the largest between 400-885 feet in diameter – roughly the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which is 430 feet tall, or about two-thirds the size of the “doomsday asteroid” Apophis , which is estimated to be more than 1,100 feet in diameter.
Apophis: the “doomsday asteroid”
Apophis is expected to visit Earth’s neighborhood in 2029, when it passes nearly 20,000 miles above the planet’s surface – again closer than the geostationary satellites hovering above – as it spins and swings on its short axis, making a full rotation one once every 30 hours or so.
Apophis was named for an ancient Egyptian “lord of chaos” in 2004 when it was discovered. While it’s hardly a world-destroying dimension, Space.com claims it can wipe out a city if it hits the planet.
The possibility of this happening is extremely rare, however, according to NASA, which says there is less than a 3% chance that doomsday rock will hit the earth when it makes its next flyby in April 2029.
On its closest approach to Earth on the evening of April 13, Apophis will be over the Atlantic Ocean at 6pm. MST and traveling at nearly 83,000 mph. It will move so fast that it will cross the Atlantic in just under an hour. And by 7 pm he will have made the trip across the United States.
Ed.Note: An earlier version of this story listed the 2029 return date for the 2020 SW asteroid.
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