Last Sunday (16), astronomers discovered that an asteroid the size of a compact car made the closest flight over Earth ever recorded without hitting our planet. About three weeks ago, something very similar had already happened.
Initially called ZTF0DxQ, the asteroid, which is now called 2020 HQ, flew over Earth at a distance of “only” 2,950 kilometers – which is little in astronomical terms. According to NASA, this earned him the title of asteroid that passed closer to Earth without causing damage here.
“Yesterday’s approach is the closest ever recorded,” said Paul Chodas, director of NASA’s Center for the Study of Objects Near Earth. “If you discount some known asteroids that really impacted our planet,” he added.
Representation of how close 2020 HQ has arrived from Earth. Image: Reproduction
Contrary to what can be imagined, the approach to 2020 HQ was not expected and took many by surprise. To give you an idea, the Palomar Observatory, in the United States, did not detect the asteroid until at least six hours after the nearest charge of the celestial body. “The asteroid approached undetected from the direction of the Sun,” said Paul Chodas. “We did not foresee this,” he added.
Perhaps the explanation is the impressive speed of 44,400 kilometers per hour when the 2020 HQ was flying over Earth. In addition, the asteroid was the size of a compact car; between 3 and 6 meters in diameter.
According to the Minor Planet Center, an organization of the International Astronomical Union focused on asteroids, the 2020 HQ flew over the Pacific Ocean, in the far east of Australia, during its approaching peak.
You can explore the asteroid on your own in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) database of small celestial bodies.
Nasa Earth Asteroid observatory Science & Space