Asteroid to have 'extremely close encounter' with Earth this week

James Marshall
September 24, 2020

After the asteroid was spotted by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona on September 18, follow-up observations determined it is 15 to 30 feet wide and will make its closes approach at 7:12am ET.

"I suspect this newly discovered object 2020 SO to be an old rocket booster because it is following an orbit about the Sun that is extremely similar to Earth's, almost circular, in the same plane, and only slightly farther away (than) the Sun at its farthest point", Dr. Paul Chodas, the director of NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies, told CNN.

Roughly 15 to 30 feet wide, the object will make its closest approach on September 24.

"In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two", the United States space agency said in a statement.

The newly discovered asteroid will come within 22,000 kilometres of earth, well below numerous communications satellites orbiting the planet, scientists said this week.

It may not happen in our lifetime, he said, but 'the risk that Earth will get hit in a devastating event one day is very high'. However, as the image above shows, by then, the asteroid will be below the satellite ring and beneath Earth. These larger asteroids pose a much greater threat if they were to impact, and they can be detected much farther away from Earth, because they're simply much brighter than the small ones.

An asteroid the size of a bus is set to make a close flyby of Earth on September 24. In fact, projections suggest it will pass by Earth on December 1 at a distance of about 50,000 kilometres, and later in February at about 220,000 kilometres. NASA's Goldstone Observatory is planning to bounce radio waves off the asteroid's surface during this close pass.

In 2006, asteroid 2006 RH120 orbited with Earth for about nine months, and in 2020, scientists realized that a rock called 2020 CD3 had been orbiting for three years already. Only the toughest space rocks of this size - those primarily composed of metal - can reach the surface mostly intact.

"The detection capabilities of NASA's asteroid surveys are continually improving", added Chodas, "and we should now expect to find asteroids of this size a couple days before they come near our planet".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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