2020 VT4 passed closer to Earth than any known asteroid except those that became meteors
An asteroid the size of a pickup truck flew very close to Earth last week, setting the record for the closest asteroid to approach the planet without hitting it, NASA said .
The asteroid named 2020 VT4 passed Earth on November 13, according to the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) , NASA’s center for monitoring the orbits of asteroids and comets.
NASA’s Asteroid Land Impact Last Warning System tweeted on Monday that the asteroid measured 5 to 10 meters and was 240 miles from Earth’s surface.
The asteroid was detected by the Asteroid Land Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) survey at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii in the early morning hours of Saturday, November 14, just 15 hours from the approach.
This is not uncommon for fast moving ones, especially asteroids reaching Earth from our blind spot towards the sun, as was the case with asteroid 2020 VT4.
Earth did not occupy the same space as the asteroid’s perihelion point, which occurred just 20 hours before our planet’s passage, Universe Today reported.
This sets a record for the closest documented non-meteoric asteroid pass to Earth. This record was already broken once this year, with asteroid 2020 QG passing 1,864 miles (about 3,000 kilometers) from Earth’s surface on August 16.
Unfortunately, the close pass of asteroid 2020 VT4 appears to have had no witnesses ; the closest approach occurred at 5:20 p.m. UTC on Friday, November 13, over the South Pacific, near the Pitcairn Islands and under daytime skies, and followed the edge of Earth’s shadow outward.
Was the Earth in danger? No. A space rock of this size has no chance of reaching Earth intact; instead, our atmosphere protects us. If it had been closer to the asteroid decay height, in the atmosphere between 50 to 70 miles, asteroid 2020 VT4 would have vaporized, due to friction with air.
No satellites (including the International Space Station, which was over the South Atlantic at the time) were affected by the passage of VT4 2020, although it certainly traversed the sphere of geostationary satellites and skimmed the low Earth orbit ring.
This step actually substantially altered the orbit of 2020 VT4.
Inland, the asteroid was in a 549-day orbit around the sun, inclined 13 degrees from the ecliptic. Its encounter with Earth diverted it into a 315-day orbit inclined 10.2 degrees with respect to the plane of the ecliptic.
2020 VT4 will visit Earth on November 13, 2052, with a much more distant step, about 1.55 million miles.
With information from Europa Press