Asteroid to zoom by, duck below satellites

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 24, 2020

Asteroid 2020 SW, as it is known, was discovered last Friday by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Scientists speculate there are more than 100 million smaller asteroids like 2020 SW flying through space, but are harder to spot unless they make their way closer to Earth.

Before anyone can breathe a sigh of relief, however, three more Near-Earth Objects are expected to fly past on September 22.

The next time the asteroid will be anywhere close to Earth again is in September of 2041.

"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.

This illustration shows a near-Earth asteroid like asteroid 2020 SW traveling through space.

This frame from the NASA asteroid trajectory animation shows 2020 SW at its closest approach to Earth.

'In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two'.

An asteroid will have an "extremely close encounter" with Earth on Thursday, when it flies by the planet at a distance of fewer than 20,000 miles, according to the Virtual Telescope Project.

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.

There is no danger to earth posed by 2020 SO, but its slow speed and relatively close pass-by, means scientists can study it. NASA's Goldstone Observatory is planning to bounce radio waves off the asteroid's surface during this close pass. The data collected can then be turned into radar images, revealing the asteroid's shape and giving us an idea of its composition.

This animation from NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies depicts asteroid 2020 SW's trajectory as it safely passes Earth on September 24, 2020.

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

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