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SUV-Size Asteroid Sets Record in Its Flying Proximity to Earth

CC0 / / Asteroid and the Earth
Asteroid and the Earth - Sputnik International
Asteroid 2020 QG passed 2,950 kilometres above the Indian Ocean on 16 August but remained a non-impact space body because Earth gravity bent its trajectory.

According to NASA, 2020 GQ is small by asteroid standards – 3 to 6 metres - but it would have become a fireball, had it been on an impact trajectory.

Compared to other Near Earth Asteroids (NEA), 2020 GQ flew by Earth at much smaller distance, while other asteroids’ proximity is usually much farther away than the Moon.

"It's really cool to see a small asteroid come by this close, because we can see the Earth's gravity dramatically bend its trajectory. Our calculations show that this asteroid got turned by 45 degrees or so as it swung by our planet," said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

The asteroid was first recorded on an image taken by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California, six hours after its closest point of approach, on its away from Earth.

A 2020 QG-size asteroid passes this closely to Earth on average only a few times a year, NASA said.

"It's quite an accomplishment to find these tiny close-in asteroids in the first place, because they pass by so fast. There's typically only a short window of a couple of days before or after close approach when this small of an asteroid is close enough to Earth to be bright enough but not so close that it moves too fast in the sky to be detected by a telescope," Chodas said.

In 2005, NASA was tasked by the US Congress to find 90% of the near-Earth asteroids that are about 460 feet (140 meters) or larger in size. Fear of their impact on Earth prompted the necessity to detect them while they are still far away from Earth.

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