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Space: London-sized asteroid misses Earth just 240 miles on Friday 13



A London-sized asteroid missed Earth by only 240 miles on Friday the 13th in the nearest pass – but was not seen until the next day

  • The rock – called 2020 VT4 – was seen 15 hours after it exploded
  • It was discovered by Hawaii’s latest asteroid earth impact warning system.
  • The 16 to 33-foot-wide body, if it were much closer, would burn
  • This is the second asteroid to break the record for the closest approach this year

An asteroid the size of a London bus missed Earth by only 386 km on Friday the 13th, but was not discovered until the next day, astronomers discovered.

The space scale, called “2020 VT4”, was spotted just 15 hours after the closest approach from the asteroid’s follow-up warning system to Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

If it were much closer, a 16-33 foot (5-10 m) wide body – as estimated by its brightness – would burn in the atmosphere over the South Pacific.

Its orbit brought it approximately the same distance from Earth as the International Space Station, making it the closest asteroid to pass by Earth.

A London-sized asteroid missed Earth by only 386 km on Friday the 13th, but was not discovered until the next day, astronomers have revealed (photo)

A London-sized asteroid missed Earth by only 386 km on Friday the 13th, but was not discovered until the next day, astronomers have revealed (photo)

The orbit of Asteroid 2020 VT4 brought it approximately the same distance from Earth as the International Space Station, making it the closest asteroid to pass by Earth to date.

The orbit of Asteroid 2020 VT4 brought it approximately the same distance from Earth as the International Space Station, making it the closest asteroid to pass by Earth to date.

Before being called 2020 VT4, the asteroid was originally designated as A10sHcN.

“The newly discovered asteroid A10sHcN approached Earth yesterday, passing just a few hundred miles above the South Pacific,” wrote astronomer Tony Dunn, who runs the Orbit Simulator website, on Twitter.

“This encounter shortened its orbit, ensuring that this cruiser on Earth would make more frequent close-ups.”

According to experts, the asteroid will have to be at least 25 feet (25 meters) long to cause local damage to the Earth’s surface – and about 1-2 kilometers of 0.6-1.2 miles (1-2 kilometers) to have global impacts.

By comparison, Earth scientists believe that the asteroid that killed dinosaurs 66 million years ago was about 12.1 kilometers wide.

Meanwhile, the Chelyabinsk meteor, which exploded over Russia in 2013 – smashing the windows of thousands of buildings over a large area and accommodating 112 people – would be about thirty times larger than the 2020 VT4.

In contrast, the impact element will probably need to be about 96 miles (96 miles) wide to completely eradicate the existence of life on our planet.

If it were much closer, a 16-33 foot (5-10 m) wide body - as estimated by its brightness - would burn in the atmosphere over the South Pacific.  Pictured, the Asteroid 2020 VT4 (top), a London bus (center) and the previous record holder for the nearest known asteroid passage on Earth, 2020QC (bottom)

If it were much closer, a 16-33 foot (5-10 m) wide body – as estimated by its brightness – would burn in the atmosphere over the South Pacific. Pictured, the Asteroid 2020 VT4 (top), a London bus (center) and the previous record holder for the nearest known asteroid passage on Earth, 2020QC (bottom)

The orbit of VT4 in 2020 (pictured in white) brought it approximately the same distance from Earth (shown in blue) as the International Space Station, making it the closest recorded visitor to an asteroid.

The orbit of VT4 in 2020 (pictured in white) brought it approximately the same distance from Earth (shown in blue) as the International Space Station, making it the closest recorded visitor to an asteroid.

This is not the first time a space visitor has broken the record for the closest passing asteroid.

As early as August, the asteroid 2020 QG passed only 1830 miles from Earth – and NASA astronomers then did not notice it until it passed.

The rock passed over the Indian Ocean at the same distance from the Earth’s surface as driving from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Malaga, Spain.

Slightly smaller than VT4 in 2020, QC for 2020 was about 1.8-5.5 m in diameter. Objects of this size are approaching our planet every year.

QG for 2020 is similar in size to another asteroid that did enter the Earth’s atmosphere – 9-12 feet in diameter “2018 LA”, which reached us on June 2, 2018.

This cosmic rock has burned over Africa – and if small fragments hit the ground, no damage or injury was reported.

Coincidentally, 2020 VT4 is not the only asteroid to visit Earth on Friday, the 13th – with a 300-meter-wide body called Apophis, which is expected to pass near us on Friday, April 13, 2029.

Coincidentally, 2020 VT4 is not the only asteroid to visit Earth on Friday, the 13th - with a 300-meter-wide body called Apophis, which is expected to pass near us on Friday, April 13, 2029. In the photo, the artist's impression of the approach of Apophis to the Earth

Coincidentally, 2020 VT4 is not the only asteroid to visit Earth on Friday, the 13th – with a 300-meter-wide body called Apophis, which is expected to pass near us on Friday, April 13, 2029. In the photo, the artist’s impression of the approach of Apophis to the Earth

Astronomers hunt for asteroids larger than 450 feet, as they can cause “catastrophic damage”

Researchers have found most asteroids about a kilometer in size, but are now looking for those that are about 140 meters – as they can cause catastrophic damage.

Although no one knows when the next major impact will occur, scientists have come under pressure to predict – and intercept – its arrival.

The impression of the artist in the photo

The impression of the artist in the photo

“Sooner or later we will get … a small or big impact,” said Rolf Densing, who heads the European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt.

It may not happen in our lifetime, he said, but “the risk of the Earth being hit by a devastating event one day is very high.”

“So far we can do little.”

Source: AFP

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