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Record close shave: Asteroid 2020 VT4, just peeled from Earth

Go. A low – flying space rock set a record last Friday (13th respectively)you) when the 2020 VT4 traveled just under 400 kilometers (250 miles) over the South Pacific.

The asteroid was spotted by a study of the asteroid’s last-earth warning system (ATLAS) at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory in the early hours of Saturday morning, Nov. 14, just 15 hours after approach. This is not uncommon for fast-moving, especially asteroids that come to Earth from our solar blind spot, such as the 2020 VT4.

It is estimated that the asteroid 2020 VT4 is 5-10 meters (about 16-32 feet), approximately the size of a small house. Earth’s just failed to occupy the same space as the perihelion point for the asteroid, which occurred just 20 hours before Earth’s orbit.

The orbit (ground passage) of asteroid 2020 VT4. Credit: NASA / JPL

This sets a record for the closest documented non-meteoric asteroid passage to Earth. This record has already been broken once this year, with the asteroid 2020 QG passing 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) off the Earth’s surface on August 16. A shiny car was filmed on video on the afternoon of August 10you, 1972, when it became a brilliant daytime fireball over the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming before escaping back from the Earth’s atmosphere. Another recent record was set in October 2008, when astronomers spotted a 4-meter (13-foot) asteroid 2008 TC3 19 hours before the impact and later recovered fragments in the Nubian Desert in northern Sudan two months later, making the 2008 TC3 the first asteroid to be documented before and after a blow.

Images to detect asteroid 2020 VT4. In the photo, the frame is a quarter of a degree (15 ′) to the side. Credit ATLAS / Larry Deno.

Unfortunately, the close passage of asteroid 2020 VT4 seems to have remained unconscious; the closest approach occurred at 5:20 p.m., Universal Time (UT) on Friday, November 13thyou over the South Pacific near the Pitcairn Islands under daylight, and he followed the edge of the rising shadow of Earth. For context, the International Space Station also orbits 400 kilometers (250 miles) above the Earth’s surface and is 109 meters (358 feet) from top to top … 2020 VT4 would certainly be visible as a fast-moving + “Star” with the magnitude of his distant foot south of Tasmania in the sky before dawn, if any observer connected to the island or early in the morning a sailor observed. No satellite (including the ISS, which at the time was over the South Atlantic) was affected by the passage of VT4 in 2020, although it is certainly an eagle through the sphere of geostationary satellites and grazed the ring in low Earth orbit.

If it had hit Earth, the 2020 VT4 would have just put on a good show and maybe left a field after a meteorite. In context, the asteroid that produced the Chelyabinsk event in 2013 was thought to be 20 meters high.

Mauna Loa’s 0.5-meter ATLAS2 telescope. Credit: ATLAS-MLO

This passage actually changed the orbit of the 2020 VT4 significantly. Incoming, the asteroid was in a 549-day orbit around the Sun, tilted 13 degrees to the ecliptic … its encounter with the massive Earth deflected it into a 315-day orbit, tilted 10.2 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic. With perihelion now in the orbit of Venus, this actually changes the classification of VT4 for 2020 by NEO Apollo Earth-Crossser to an asteroid.

2020 VT4 will visit the next Earth on November 13you 2052 with a much longer range of 0.02 AU (1.8 million miles, nominal).

The VT4 record for 2020 will be difficult to achieve … but 2020 is far from over.

Lead image: An artist’s impression of an asteroid passing through Earth. Credit: ESA / P. Caryl

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