Small asteroid passed extremely close earlier today

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This NASA graphic shows the locations of asteroid 2020 OY4 and Earth during a close flyby of the asteroid on July 28, 2020. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

View larger. | Near-Earth asteroid 2020 OY4 on July 27, 2020. At the imaging time, the asteroid was about 155,000 miles (250,000 km) from Earth, 2/3s of the lunar distance, and it was still safely approaching us. Image via the Virtual Telescope Project.

Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project reports from Rome, Italy. Article reprinted with permission.

(Courtesy EarthSky.org)

Earlier today (July 28, 2020), near-Earth asteroid 2020 OY4 had a extremely close, but safe, encounter with our planet, reaching a minimum distance from the Earth of about 26,000 miles (42,000 km), less than 11% of the average distance of the moon. We managed to capture its image as it swept past.

The Mt. Lemmon survey discovered the asteroid on July 26. It was labeled near-Earth asteroid 2020 OY4. The asteroid then passed at about 11% of the moon’s distance early in the day on July 28. The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome captured its image.

This space rock is estimated to be about 7.5 to 17 feet (2.3 to 5.2 meters) across. It reached its minimum distance from us earlier today on July 28, 2020, at 05:32 UTC (translate UTC to your time). Of course, there were no risks at all to our planet. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

Space rocks smaller than about 25 meters (about 82 feet) will most likely burn up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere and cause little or no damage.

If a rocky meteoroid larger than 25 meters but smaller than one kilometer ( a little more than 1/2 mile) were to hit Earth, it would likely cause local damage to the impact area.

The Mt. Lemmon survey discovered the asteroid on July 26, 2020.

The image above comes from a single, 120-second exposure, remotely taken with the “Elena” (PlaneWave 17?+Paramount ME+SBIG STL-6303E) robotic unit available at Virtual Telescope.

The telescope tracked the fast apparent motion of the asteroid. This is why stars show as long trails, while the asteroid looks like a bright and sharp dot of light in the center of the image, marked by an arrow.

The Planewave 17?-f/6.8 (432/2939 mm) Corrected Dall-Kirkham Astrograph telescope of the Virtual Telescope Project was used to capture the image above of asteroid 2020 OY4. It is named “Elena” for Gianluca Masi’s mother. Read more about this telescope.Sponsored by Advertising PartnerSponsored VideoWatch to learn more

Bottom line: Image and information about asteroid 2020 OY4, which swept within 11% of the moon’s distance on July 28, 2020.

Help Support The Virtual Telescope Project! Its fund-raiser is going on now. Please, click here to donate and receive unique, LIMITED EDITION set of images of stunning Potentially Hazardous Asteroid 1998 OR2, images of the International Space Station above Rome and more, specifically made for supporters like you!

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Asteroid Fast Facts

(NASA – JPL) What Are The Differences Between An Asteroid, Comet, Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite?

AsteroidA relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun.
CometA relatively small, at times active, object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas.
MeteoroidA small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.
MeteorThe light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.
MeteoriteA meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands upon the Earth’s surface.

Size and Frequency
Every day, Earth is bombarded with more than 100 tons of dust and sand-sized particles.

About once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth’s atmosphere, creates an impressive fireball, and burns up before reaching the surface.

Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area.

Finally, only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earth’s civilization comes along. Impact craters on Earth, the moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences.

Space rocks smaller than about 25 meters (about 82 feet) will most likely burn up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere and cause little or no damage.

If a rocky meteoroid larger than 25 meters but smaller than one kilometer ( a little more than 1/2 mile) were to hit Earth, it would likely cause local damage to the impact area.

We believe anything larger than one to two kilometers (one kilometer is a little more than one-half mile) could have worldwide effects. At 5.4 kilometers in diameter, the largest known potentially hazardous asteroid is Toutatis.

By comparison, asteroids that populate the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and pose no threat to Earth, can be as big as 940 kilometers (about 583 miles) across.

How is an Asteroid Orbit Calculated?
An asteroid’s orbit is computed by finding the elliptical path about the sun that best fits the available observations of the object. That is, the object’s computed path about the sun is adjusted until the predictions of where the asteroid should have appeared in the sky at several observed times match the positions where the object was actually observed to be at those same times. As more and more observations are used to further improve an object’s orbit, we become more and more confident in our knowledge of where the object will be in the future.

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