A NEWLY discovered asteroid whizzed past Earth last night, coming closer to our planet than the Moon.
Asteroid 2020 RF3 flew within one lunar distance – the distance between the Earth and the Moon – making it the 61st asteroid to do so this year. Astronomers only discovered the asteroid on September 12, 2020, shortly before it made its close approach last night.
The space rock, which was found by astronomers using the PAN-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, came within just 0.24 lunar distances, or 92,000 kilometres, of Earth.
Asteroid RF3 is a small space rock with an estimated diameter between 5.3 and 12 metres.
The asteroid belongs to the Aten group of space rocks, which are asteroids which have an orbit with a close proximity to Earth.
According to NASA, there are more than 1,100 Aten asteroids in the solar system.
Asteroid news: ‘Near-Earth’ rock just came closer than the Moon
The asteroid is in a horrible orbit and has a 1% chance of striking Earth in just eight years. And — thank goodness — it doesn’t really exist.
It’s a fictitious asteroid that’s the focus of a realistic exercise devised for scientists and engineers from around the world who are attending the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference being held this week outside Washington, D.C.
A real asteroid of this size, should it ever hit the planet, could wipe out an entire city.
“This is a threat that could happen, even though it’s extremely unlikely,” says Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who created this realistic simulation. “Our goal here is to go through all of the steps that we would have to go through.”
He says a lot has been learned from three previous drills held at past international conferences and from other asteroid exercises that have been separately conducted by officials at NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.