Asteroid news: Astronomers photograph ‘extremely close’ asteroid as it flew by

A space rock known as 2020 UA flew so close to our planet today, October 21, astronomers described it as a “memorable event”. The seven-metre asteroid, which was so small that even if it did hit our planet it would have merely burned up in the atmosphere, flew by at just 12 percent of the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

According to the Virtual Telescope Project, that equates to just 46,000 kilometres from our planet, which in astronomical terms is a hair’s width.

NASA revealed the asteroid shot by our planet at a speed of 7.8 kilometres per second or slightly more than 28,000 kilometres per hour.

The Virtual Telescope Project managed to snap an image of the space rock as it flew by.

It said: “Earlier today, the near-Earth asteroid 2020 UA had a extremely close, but safe, close encounter with our planet, reaching a minimum distance from the Earth of about 46000 km, 12 percent the average distance of the Moon.

“At the time of the image above, 2020 UA was at its minimum distance from us (46000 km) and the telescope tracked its extremely fast (2300″/minute) apparent motion, this is why stars show as very long trails, while the asteroid looks like a bright and sharp dot of light in the centre of the image, marked by an arrow.

“This 5.9 – 13 meters large asteroid was discovered by the Mt. Lemmon survey on 16 October 2020 and reached its minimum distance (about 46000 km) from us on 21 October 2020, at 02:04 UTC.

“Of course, there were no risks at all for our planet.”

NASA has described the asteroid as a near-Earth object (NEO), which allows the space agency to study the history of the solar system.

NASA has said: “NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.

“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.

“The giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets and the leftover bits and pieces from this formation process are the comets we see today.

“Likewise, today’s asteroids are the bits and pieces leftover from the initial agglomeration of the inner planets that include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.”

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