A Brazilian amateur astronomer discovered a large and possibly dangerous asteroid that passed safely close to Earth on Thursday 10 September.
The asteroid, called 2020 QU6, measures approximately 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) wide and is large enough to cause a global catastrophe if it hits Earth. However, it posed no risk as it flew over our planet at a distance of more than 40 million kilometers, which is more than 100 times the distance between the Earth and the moon, says a Planetary Society statement.
Bruce Betts, the chief scientist of the Planetary Society, said in the statement that we hear about asteroid discoveries more frequently because scientists are getting better at finding and tracking near-Earth (NEO) objects. There isn̵
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How was the 2020 QU6 asteroid located?
Amateur astronomer Leonardo Amaral discovered the 2020 QU6 asteroid on August 27 at the Campo dos Amarais observatory near São Paulo, Brazil. In 2019, he received a $ 8,500 grant from the Planetary Society to purchase better telescope equipment to find, track and characterize NEOs more effectively.
Amaral’s location in the Southern Hemisphere also offers a unique view for spotting a large asteroid like this one, because several professional asteroid-tracking sky surveys are located in the Northern Hemisphere, the statement read.
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With NASA and other major agencies already monitoring asteroids, the discovery of asteroid 2020 QU6 so close to Earth underscores the importance of terrestrial astronomers like Amaral. Casey Dreier, chief advocate and senior advisor for space policy for The Planetary Society, also stressed that investment in new space capabilities, such as NASA’s NEO Surveillance Mission (NEOSM), which is a space telescope designed to locate and track dangerous objects close to the Earth. The finding is a reminder that even though scientists have discovered the largest NEOs, there is an ocean to cover, Dreier said in the statement.
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(Image for representation, Credits: NASA)