Friday the 13th is considered an ominous date in many cultural superstitions, however, NASA discovered something quite exciting which transpired on Friday, November 13, 2020.
An asteroid known as 2020 VT4 flew really close to our home on the date and fortunately, just flew by without interfering with our lives down on the surface. The data reveals that the space rock came as near as 250 miles to our planet (400 kilometres). For reference, the distance between Mumbai and Delhi on the ground is 878 miles.
Though astronomical research has made large strides in the past decades, scientists still missed this close shave till it was over. The Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) spotted the object as it moved away from Earth and missed the approach towards the planet.This can happen when a space object falls in a ‘blind spot’ i.e. in the direction of the Sun. The astronomers believe that its immense closeness to our planet may have influenced its orbit because of our gravitational pull.
Astronomer Tony Dunn tweeted an animated representation of the event on Sunday. He illustrated how the asteroid approached the planet, passed a few hundred miles above the South Pacific Ocean which shortened its orbit. Due to this, the “Earth-crosser” is likely to make future visits.
Newly-discovered asteroid A10sHcN approached Earth yesterday, passing only a few hundred miles above the South Pacific Ocean. This encounter shortened its orbit, ensuring that this Earth-crosser will make more frequent close approaches.https://t.co/TmkzojIzPf pic.twitter.com/XrnKiiGTyJ
— Tony Dunn (@tony873004) November 14, 2020
Some in the comment section discussed if this close approach breaks the record for the closest flyby of an asteroid toward Earth.The space rock is observed to be about 10 metres (32 feet; about twice taller than a giraffe). The size isn’t significant enough to cause damage and the rock would have burned up if it entered the atmosphere.
The year has seen many close approaches, the previous closest one was Asteroid 2020 QG which came around 2,000 miles (3218 kilometre) of the planet on August 16. It was the size of a hatchback car and it was too far to potentially be of any danger.
While the asteroids observed did not threaten the planet, their discoveries are till important. Keeping an eye out on the sky into the vast space is not only important for scientific inquiry but to safeguard the planet from potentially harmful objects that may be coming toward us.
Near-Earth Object or NEOs also provide astronomers with a chance to study how the planets’ gravity influences the path of space objects and the shapes the universe as we know it.