Bus-size asteroid to zoom by Earth today, ducking below satellites

James Marshall
September 25, 2020

"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. CNEOS scientists determined that it will make its closest approach at 4:12 a.m. PDT (7:12 a.m. EDT) on September 24 over the Southeastern Pacific Ocean.

According to EarthSky, the asteroid is so small that the Earth's gravity is expected to change the rock's course when it goes past the Earth.

Based on its brightness, scientists estimate that 2020 SW is roughly 15 to 30 feet (5 to 10 meters) wide - or about the size of a small school bus.

Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona in Tucson discovered this asteroid named 2020 SW on Friday (September 18). He says, "In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two".

Asteroids have made close flybys of Earth in the past, but those standing on the surface may have the opportunity to see 2020 SW whiz by.

The real threat are considerably bigger asteroids.

The asteroid would be speeding at around 27, 900 km per hour, the space agency said.

Researchers have discovered most of the asteroids that are about a kilometers in size, but are now on the hunt for those that are about 459ft (140m) - as they could cause catastrophic damage. At that time, it will be pass far beyond the Moon, at a distance of over 3.5 million kilometres. NASA's Goldstone Observatory is planning to bounce radio waves off the asteroid's surface during this close pass.

The 34-meter DSS-13 radio antenna at the Goldstone Observatory is used for radio astronomy, including collecting radar images of passing near-Earth objects.

"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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