Insight & Analysis

A near miss…

Published: Aug 2020

It’s not quite a dinosaur-extinction level event, but a car-sized asteroid recently passed Earth at the closest point ever – and no one saw it coming.

Asteroid the size of a car

On the evening of Sunday 16th August, a car-sized asteroid flew within about 1,830 miles (2,950 kilometres) of Earth. It’s the closest ever recorded according to asteroid trackers. Early observations suggest it flew over the Southern Hemisphere just after 4am Universal Time on Sunday.

It would have posed no danger if it had struck. Owing to its size, it would have just exploded in the atmosphere several miles above the ground. But some find the close shave worrisome – since astronomers had no idea it even existed until six hours after it had passed.

According to Paul Chodas, the director of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies in an interview with Business Insider, the asteroid, now named 2020 QG, approached undetected from the direction of the Sun. “We didn’t see it coming,” he said.

Objects that come from the direction of the Sun are notoriously difficult to spot, but NASA has a plan to address this. It is currently in the early stages of developing a space telescope that can detect asteroids and comets coming from the Sun’s direction.

We’re definitely glad it flew safely past!

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