The good news: NASA boffins spot closest near-Earth asteroid ever. The bad news: We never saw it coming

A space rock the size of a sports utility vehicle zoomed within 2,950km of Earth over the weekend.

It’s good news because, as NASA explained, the 15 August flyby of 2020 QG was the closest pass humanity has ever detected and therefore speaks to our enormous cleverness.

“It’s quite an accomplishment to find these tiny close-in asteroids in the first place, because they pass by so fast,” said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “There’s typically only a short window of a couple of days before or after close approach when this small of an asteroid is close enough to Earth to be bright enough but not so close that it moves too fast in the sky to be detected by a telescope.”

The circled streak in the center of this image is asteroid 2020 QG, which came closer to Earth than any other nonimpacting asteroid on record. It was detected by the Zwicky Transient Facility on Sunday, Aug. 16 at 12:08 a.m. EDT (Saturday, Aug. 15 at 9:08 p.m. PDT). Credits: ZTF/Caltech Optical Observatories

The circled streak in the center of this image is asteroid 2020 QG. Credits: ZTF/Caltech Optical Observatories

But the less-good news is that we spotted it on the way out.

As NASA detailed, 2020QG sped past at 12.3 kilometres per second and “was first recorded as just a long streak in a wide-field camera image taken by the Zwicky Transient Facility”.

“The image was taken six hours after the closest point of approach as the asteroid was heading away from Earth.”

Back to some good news: even if we had failed to spot the rock, it was too small to make it through Earth’s atmosphere and do any damage. NASA reckons it would have been visible as a fireball. And those, as your humble hack discovered when walking home a couple of months back, can be awesome as seen in the tweet below depicting my cosmic encounter. ®

Articles You May Like

OnePlus 8T Battery Specifications Confirmed, Warp Charge 65 Announced Ahead of October 14 Launch
Sweetheart tax deal appeal: European Commission takes €13bn Apple state aid claim to the EU’s highest court
Oppo Watch ECG Edition With Stainless Steel Body, 40 Hours Battery Life Launched
iPhone 12 mini Could Be a Part of 2020 iPhone Family, Rumours Suggest
Amazon Fire Stick Lite Alleged Renders Leaked, May Launch on September 24: Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *