Asteroid the size of a London bus missed the ground with only 240 miles on Friday 13 in the nearest pass on record – but it was not seen until the next day
- The stone – christened 2020 VT4 – was seen 15 hours after it was roared off
- It was discovered by the Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System in Hawaii.
- The 16-33 meter wide body, if it had come much closer, would have burned up
- It is the second asteroid to break the record for nearest approach this year
An asteroid the size of a London bus missed Earth by only 386 km on Friday the 13th – but was only discovered the next day, astronomers have revealed.
The space rock, called ‘2020 VT4’, was seen only 15 hours after its nearest approach by the Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System on Mauna Loa, Hawaii.
Had it come much closer, the 5-10 m wide body – as estimated by its brightness – would have burned up in the atmosphere over the South Pacific.
Its orbit brought it about the same distance from Earth as the International Space Station, making it the closest asteroid to have passed Earth so far.
An asteroid the size of a London bus missed Earth by only 386 km on Friday the 13th – but was only discovered the next day, astronomers have revealed (stock image)
The orbit of Asteroid 2020 VT4 brought it about the same distance from Earth as the International Space Station, making it the closest asteroid that has passed Earth so far.
Before the asteroid was named 2020 VT4, it was originally named A10sHcN.
‘Recently discovered asteroid A10sHcN approached Earth yesterday and passed just a few hundred miles across the South Pacific,’ wrote astronomer Tony Dunn – who runs the site ‘Orbit Simulator’ – on Twitter.
‘This meeting shortened its trajectory and ensured that this ground cruiser would make more frequent close approaches.’
According to experts, an asteroid will need to be at least 25 meters across to cause local damage to the Earth’s surface – and about 1-2 kilometers (0.6-1.2 miles) to have global impacts.
By comparison, Earth scientists believe that the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago was about 12.1 kilometers wide.
Meanwhile, the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013 – smashing windows in thousands of buildings over a large area and hospitalizing 112 people – would have been about thirty times larger than 2020 VT4.
In contrast, an impact force would probably need to be about 96 kilometers wide to eradicate the existence of life on our planet completely.
Had it come much closer, the 5-10 m wide body – as estimated by its brightness – would have burned up in the atmosphere over the South Pacific. Pictured Asteroid 2020 VT4 (top), a London bus (center) and the previous holder of the record for the most famous asteroid pass on Earth, 2020QC (bottom)
Recently discovered asteroid A10sHcN approached Earth yesterday and passed only a few hundred miles across the South Pacific. This meeting shortened its trajectory and ensured that this ground cruisers will come close more frequently. Https://t.co/TmkzojIzPf pic.twitter.com/XrnKiiGTyJ
– Tony Dunn (@ tony873004) November 14, 2020
2020 VT4’s orbit (pictured in white) brought it approximately the same distance from Earth (shown in blue) as the International Space Station, making it the closest recorded asteroid visitor
This is not the first time this year that a space visitor has broken the record for near-passing asteroids.
Back in August, the asteroid 2020 QG passed only 1,830 miles from Earth – and NASA astronomers did not see it until it had passed.
The rock passed over the Indian Ocean at the same distance away from the earth’s surface as the run from Copenhagen in Denmark down to Málaga in Spain.
Slightly smaller than 2020 VT4, 2020 QC, was about 6–18 feet (1.8–5.5 m) in diameter. Objects of this size approach our planet every year.
The 2020 QG was similar in size to another asteroid that entered Earth’s atmosphere – 9-12 feet in diameter ‘2018 LA’, which reached us on June 2, 2018.
This space rock burned up over Africa – and if there were small fragments affecting the earth, no injuries or damage were reported.
Coincidentally, VT4 2020 is not the only asteroid to visit Earth on Friday the 13th – with the 984-foot (300-meter) wide body called Apophis expected to pass close to us on Friday the 13th of April 2029
Coincidentally, the 2020 VT4 is not the only asteroid to visit Earth on Friday the 13th – with the 984-foot (300-meter) wide body called Apophis expected to pass close to us on Friday, April 13, 2029. Pictured, a artist’s impression of Apophis is approaching the ground
Astronomers hunt for asteroids larger than 450 feet as they can cause ‘catastrophic damage’
Scientists have discovered most asteroids that are about a kilometer large, but are now looking for those that are about 140 meters – as they can cause catastrophic damage.
Although no one knows when the next major impact will occur, scientists have been under pressure to predict – and capture – its arrival.
The artist’s impression depicted
‘Sooner or later we will have … a smaller or larger impact,’ said Rolf Densing, head of the European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt
It can not happen in our lifetime, he said, but ‘the risk of the Earth being hit in a devastating event one day is very high.’
‘At the moment there is little we can do.’