It’s not uncommon for asteroids to pass relatively close to Earth, but it’s rare that we actually get the chance to witness them as they soar by. Sometimes, researchers don’t even know about near-Earth objects until after they have passed, but astronomers discovered Asteroid 2020 SW on Friday, ahead of its visit to Earth.
The asteroid will make its closest approach to our planet on Thursday. Eager skywatchers have the unique opportunity to witness 2020 SW’s close approach via a live feed, courtesy of the Virtual Telescope Project, starting on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET.
Dr. Paul W. Chodas, the director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told CBS News on Tuesday that the asteroid will be too faint to see with the naked eye, but viewers with 12-inch telescopes should be able to spot it. “It will be moving quite fast, and the amateur would have to know precisely where to look to find it” by using a star map, Chodas said.
SW 2020 will get pretty close to Earth, but Chodas said it has “no chance at all” of colliding with us. He said it will come within about 14,000 miles of the planet’s surface.
For perspective, the moon is about 240,000 miles away, and the satellites used for television broadcasting and weather are about 23,000 miles away.
The asteroid is also quite small, measuring somewhere between 14 feet and 32 feet in diameter, according to the CNEOS. It’s so small that Earth’s gravity will likely change its trajectory when it zips by at around 7:12 a.m. E.T. on Thursday.
When the asteroid returns in 2041, it will have a much more distant approach, Chodas said.
In August, asteroid 2020 QG became the closest-ever to Earth, getting within about 1,830 miles of the planet and surviving. It wasn’t discovered until six hours after it passed over the southern Indian Ocean.
Another asteroid is expected to make a close approach on November 2, just one day before the presidential election in the U.S. Even if that asteroid, 2018 VP1, did hit Earth’s atmosphere, it would be too small to do any damage, according to NASA.
The asteroid, which is being studied by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx, shows some surprising activity on its surface, and scientists are beginning to understand what might be causing it.
When NASA’s OSIRIS-REx
spacecraft arrived at asteroid (101955) Bennu, mission scientists knew that
their spacecraft was orbiting something special. Not only was the boulder-strewn
asteroid shaped like a rough diamond, its surface was crackling with activity, shedding
small pieces of rock into space. Now, after more than a year and a half up
close with Bennu, they’re starting to better understand these dynamic particle-ejection
A collection of studies in a special edition of the Journal of
Geophysical Research: Planets homes in on the asteroid and these enigmatic
particles. The studies provide a detailed look at how these particles act when
in space, possible clues as to how they’re ejected, and even how their trajectories
can be used to approximate Bennu’s weak gravitational field.
Typically, we consider comets,
not asteroids, to be the active ones. Comets are composed of ice, rock, and
dust. As those ices are heated by the Sun, the vapor fizzes from the surface,
dust and chunks of the comet nucleus are lost to space, and a long dusty tail
forms. Asteroids, on the other hand, are composed mainly of rock and dust (and perhaps
a smaller quantity of ice), but it turns out some of these space rocks can be surprisingly
“We thought that Bennu’s
boulder-covered surface was the wild card discovery at the asteroid, but these
particle events definitely surprised us,” said Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx
principal investigator and a professor at the University of Arizona. “We’ve
spent the last year investigating Bennu’s active surface, and it’s provided us
with a remarkable opportunity to expand our knowledge of how active asteroids
Cameras on OSIRIS-REx
(short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith
Explorer) spotted rock particles being repeatedly launched into space during a January 2019 survey of the asteroid, which is about
a third of a mile (565 meters) wide at its equator.
One of the studies, led by senior research scientist Steve Chesley at NASA’s
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, found that most of these
pebble-size pieces of rock, typically measuring around a quarter-inch (7 millimeters),
were pulled back to Bennu under the asteroid’s weak gravity after a short hop,
sometimes even ricocheting back into space after colliding with the surface. Others
took longer to return to the surface, remaining in orbit for a few days and up
to 16 revolutions. And some were ejected with enough oomph to completely escape
from the Bennu environs.
Using data collected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, this animation shows the trajectories of rock particles after being ejected from asteroid (101955) Bennu’s surface. Credit: M. Brozovic/NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
By tracking the
journeys of hundreds of ejected particles, Chesley and his collaborators were also
able to better understand what might be causing the particles to launch from
the surface of Bennu. The particle sizes match what is expected for thermal
fracturing (as the asteroid’s surface is repeatedly heated and cooled while it
rotates), but the locations of the ejection events also match the modeled
impact locations of meteoroids (small rocks hitting the surface of Bennu as it
orbits the Sun). It may even be a combination of these phenomena, added
Chesley. But to come to a definitive answer, more observations are needed.
very existence poses numerous scientific questions, the particles also served
as high-fidelity probes of Bennu’s gravity field. Many particles were orbiting
Bennu far closer than would be safe for the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, and so their
trajectories were highly sensitive to the irregular gravity of Bennu. This
allowed researchers to estimate the Bennu’s gravity even more precisely than
was possible with OSIRIS-REx’s instruments.
particles were an unexpected gift for gravity science at Bennu since they
allowed us to see tiny variations in the asteroid’s gravity field that we would
not have known about otherwise,” said Chesley.
only one or two particles are ejected per day, and because they are in a very
low-gravity environment, most are moving slowly. As such, they pose little
threat to OSIRIS-REx, which will attempt to briefly touch down on the asteroid on Oct. 20 to scoop up surface material, which
may even include particles that were ejected before dropping back to the
If all goes as planned,
the spacecraft will return to Earth in September 2023 with a cache of Bennu’s material
for scientists to study further.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight
Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems
engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante
Lauretta of the University of Arizona in Tucson is the principal investigator,
and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s
science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in
Denver built the spacecraft and provides flight operations. Goddard and KinetX
Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx
is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science
Mission Directorate in Washington.
An asteroid with a diameter between 22 and 49 meters will shoot pass Earth in a distance closer than Earth from the Moon on Tuesday, according to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
“Will #asteroid 2011 ES4 hit Earth? No! 2011 ES4’s close approach is ‘close’ on an astronomical scale but poses no danger of actually hitting Earth. #PlanetaryDefense experts expect it to safely pass by at least 45,000 miles (792,000 football fields) away on Tuesday Sept. 1,” NASA Asteroid Watch posted Saturday on its Twitter account.
NASA estimates the asteroid’s relative speed at around 8.16 km per second.
The last time asteroid 2011 ES4 fly by Earth was visible from ground for four days. This time, it will be closer to Earth than before with an estimated distance of 1.2 lakh km, closer than that of the Moon, which is 3.84 lakh km away from the Earth.
The asteroid listed as potentially hazardous asteroid was first discovered in the spring of 2011 and passes by Earth every nine years.
A “potentially hazardous asteroid” is currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth, according to NASA.
An asteroid is due to pass extremely close to Earth, just ahead of Election Day in November. But there’s no reason to worry — NASA says this space rock poses no risk to our planet.
Asteroid 2018 VP1 will zoom past Earth on November 2, one day before Americans vote for the next president. In a year where unpredictable disasters have seemingly become routine, NASA is working hard to calm fears of a potential collision.
According to the space agency, even if this asteroid did hit Earth’s atmosphere, it would be too small to do any damage.
“Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approx. 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth!,” NASA Asteroid Watch tweeted Sunday. “It currently has a 0.41% chance of entering our planet’s atmosphere, but if it did, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size.”
Scientists at the Zwicky Transient Facility at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory discovered the asteroid in 2018. Since then, they’ve struggled to track its location and trajectory due to its small size.
NASA researchers have been formally cataloging “near-Earth objects” since 1998, discovering around 19,000 of them so far. None of the known objects that could be potentially hazardous to the planet are on track to pass Earth in the near future.
In fact, asteroids fly past Earth all the time — sometimes without us even knowing it. Just last week, an asteroid became the closest ever recorded, flying within 1,830 miles of Earth, and scientists weren’t even aware of its existence until hours it had already passed our planet.
As if 2020 needed another bout of apocalyptic news, reports circled this weekend that an asteroid is headed toward Earth right on Election Day. “Just in Time for the Election: An Asteroid?” the New York Times reported. “Asteroid heading our way right before Election Day,” the CNN headline blared as the topic trended on social media.
It would certainly be the cherry on top of a not-so-sweet year. But just as headlines about the murder hornets were overhyped, this asteroid is nothing to fret about — this year.
“It currently has a 0.41% chance of entering our planet’s atmosphere, but if it did, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size,” NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office tweeted on Aug. 23.
2018 VP1, which is the name of the asteroid, is about 6.5 feet in diameter. While November 2, 2020 is the day that it has a 1 in 243 chance of hitting Earth, the asteroid wouldn’t cause any damage even if it does strike us. It’s far too small. In fact, it’s not uncommon for asteroids of this size to burn up in the atmosphere.
For context, the asteroid that researchers believe wiped out the dinosaurs was roughly 6 miles wide. Its impact radically changed the climate and atmosphere, which led to a mass extinction event.
Dr. Ed Lu, executive director of the Asteroid Institute and a three-time NASA astronaut, told Salon it will be like “a shooting star in the sky” if it enters Earth’s atmosphere.
“This is ridiculously small, meaning even if it hits the Earth it’s a bright show and that’s it,” Lu said. “It would look like a fireball in the sky. It’s the kind of thing that happens every few weeks on Earth.”
In 2018, astronomers discovered the asteroid using a robotic telescope called the Zwicky Transient Facility in California. Its trajectory has a high uncertainty, since it hasn’t been seen since its discovery, but it has a two-year orbital period which means it is on its way back to us. While it is expected to be near Earth on Nov. 2, 2020, the day before the United States’ Election Day, it is more likely to pass a few thousand miles away from our planet.
Lu said it’s possible that this Near-Earth Object (NEO) could swing back and make an appearance in Earth’s atmosphere at a later date, but emphasized it still wouldn’t do any damage on Earth because of its size.
“Asteroids in general that come back to Earth do swing back at later times,” Lu said, adding that it could be a “teaching moment” for researchers and the public in part because of how hit or miss asteroid tracking is at the moment.
“You don’t have perfect data, because you have a limited number of observations so therefore you’re just sort of a range of possibilities that are all consistent with those two data points that we have,” Lu said.
If it isn’t a big deal, then why did this story go viral? Nobody knows, but it could be the funny timing — coming right on the same day as a pivotal election.
“This story should have been cut on the newsroom floor before it went viral,” Danica Remy, President B612 Foundation, told Salon. “Clearly someone went digging for this non-news story on the JPL Sentry page for sensationalized drama and clicks”.
Notably, last week a small asteroid also flew by very close to Earth; an asteroid named 2020 QG. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it is now the closest known non-impacting asteroid. Like the Election Day asteroid, there was no concern about it impacting Earth because it would have likely have become a fireball as it entered Earth’s atmosphere.
“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,” Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said in statement. “Our calculations show that this asteroid got turned by 45 degrees or so as it swung by our planet.”
Amid a pandemic, civil unrest and a divisive US election season, we now have an asteroid zooming toward us.
On the day before the presidential vote, no less.
Yep. The celestial object known as 2018VP1 is projected to come close to Earth on November 2, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Its diameter is 0.002 km, or about 6.5 feet, according to NASA’s data. It was first identified at Palomar Observatory in California in 2018.
NASA says there are three potential impacts, but “based on 21 observations spanning 12.968 days,” the agency has determined the asteroid probably — phew! — won’t have a deep impact, let alone bring Armageddon.
The chance of it hitting us is just 0.41%, data show.
CNN has reached out to NASA for any additional or updated information but has not heard back.
(The-CNN-Wire & 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.)
An asteroid discovered in 2018 will fly very close to Earth on Nov. 2 according to The Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Astronomers spotted the object from Palomar Observatory in San Diego County in 2018 followed by a 13 day observation arc and has not been detected since.
Asteroid 2018VP1 is currently projected to come close to Earth sometime during the day before the 2020 presidential election on Nov. 3, according to NASA.
The asteroid will likely come as close to between 4,700 miles and 260,000 miles of Earth, according to Forbes.
The good news is there is only a 1 in 240 (0.41%) chance of the asteroid entering earth’s atmosphere and because the asteroid is only around 7 feet in diameter, if it does manage to enter the Earth’s atmosphere, it would appear as an extremely bright meteor and break up into tiny pieces.
The logarithmic scale used by astronomers to rate the potential hazard of impact of an asteroid rates 2018VP1 a -3.57
Actual scale values less than -2 reflect events for which there are no likely consequences, while Palermo Scale values between -2 and 0 indicate situations that merit careful monitoring.
An asteroid the size of an SUV passed 1,830 miles (2,950 kilometers) above Earth, the closest asteroid ever observed passing by our planet, NASA said Tuesday.
If it had been on a collision course with Earth, the asteroid — named 2020 QG — would likely not have caused any damage, instead disintegrating in the atmosphere, creating a fireball in the sky, or a meteor, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said in a statement.
The asteroid, which was about 10 to 20 feet (three to six meters) long, passed above the southern Indian Ocean on Sunday at 0408 GMT.
It was moving at nearly eight miles per second (12.3 kilometers per second), well below the geostationary orbit of about 22,000 miles at which most telecommunication satellites fly.
The asteroid was first recorded six hours after its approach by the Zwicky Transient Facility, a telescope at the Palomar Observatory at the California Institute of Technology, as a long trail of light in the sky.
The US space agency said that similarly sized asteroids pass by Earth at a similar distance a few times per year.
But they’re difficult to record, unless they’re heading directly towards the planet, in which case the explosion in the atmosphere is usually noticed — as in Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013, when the explosion of an object about 66 feet long shattered windows for miles, injuring a thousand people.
One of NASA’s missions is to monitor larger asteroids (460 feet) that could actually pose a threat to Earth, but their equipment also tracks smaller ones.
“It’s really cool to see a small asteroid come by this close, because we can see the Earth’s gravity dramatically bends its trajectory,” said Paul Chodas, the director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA.
According to the JPL’s calculations, the asteroid turned by about 45 degrees due to Earth’s gravitational pull.
The asteroid is estimated to be 1,100 ft. in diameter, while the Empire State Building stands at approximately 1,400 ft. tall.
By CELIA JEAN
JUNE 7, 2020 21:13
Artist’s Impression of a collision of two icy asteroid-sized bodies orbiting the bright star Fomalhaut
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An asteroid almost as tall as the Empire State Building in New York is expected to fly near Earth this weekend.
Asteroid 2002 NN4 is set to pass by the Earth on June 6, according to the space agency’s asteroid watch widget, which provides easy access to information on the next five asteroids expected to pass by our planet.
Information provided on the widget shows the asteroid, named Asteroid 2002 NN4, to be approximately 1,100 ft. in diameter (about 335 meters), while the Empire State Building stands at approximately 1,400 ft. (426 meters).
Despite information provided by the widget putting the asteroid at 300 ft. shorter than the iconic building, more in depth information listed about the asteroid on NASA’s Center for Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) website, which monitors close approaches to Earth, approximates the asteroid to be anywhere from 820-1,870 ft. (250-570 m.) in diameter.
The asteroid will be at its nearest to Earth at a distance of 3,160,000 miles.
The widget shows the next five asteroids that are expected to come within 4.6 million miles of Earth, and provides size comparison pictures of on-earth objects. While Asteroid 2002 NN4 has been compared to the average size of a sports stadium, another asteroid also expected to pass near earth on the same day is shown to be the size of an airplane, nearing Earth at a distance of only 890,000 miles.
More than 30 Near Earth Objects are discovered each week, roughly 1,500 per year, according to NASA’s Planetary Defense website. Roughly half of the known NEOs are objects larger than about 460 ft. (140 m.) in size. The estimated population of NEOs of this size is about 25,000.
In 2019, when just over 19,000 had been discovered, scientists from NASA and other space agencies from around the world gathered for an international Planetary Defense Conference, one of many steps in the agency’s preparedness plans in case an asteroid were to hit Earth.