Asteroid Photographed by Astronomers as it Flies by 'Extremely Close' to Earth

News18
·2 min read

Our home planet is frequently buzzed by near earth objects or asteroids (NEO/NEA). Many of these cosmic objects nudged by gravitational forces of nearby planets into orbits that allow them into Earth’s orbital area. One such asteroid had an extremely close incursion near Earth that gave astronomers a chance to photograph its flight as it passed by.

The NEA known as 2020 UA flew very close to the planet early today morning.The astronomers who were tracking its flight path termed it as a ‘memorable event’. The asteroid, measured close to seven metres, had it hit our planet would have burned up in our atmosphere.

The distance between the asteroid and earth was calculated at 12 percent of the distance between Earth and Moon. That would roughly equate to 46,000 kilometres from our home planet. In astronomical terms, it can be termed as a hair’s width, according to the Virtual Telescope Project.

The Virtual Telescope Project managed to photograph the space rock as it flew by and said that the near Earth asteroid 2020 UA had an extremely close flyby but was categorised as a safe.

Their telescope was able to snap a photo of the space object which was at its minimum distance of 46,000 kms and was also able to track its extremely fast motion. In the image, the asteroid shows as a bright and sharp spot in the centre (marked by an arrow), while the stars appear as very long light trails due to the speed at which the asteroid was travelling.

NASA termed the asteroid as a near-earth-object (NEO) and it passed by at a speed of more than 28,000 kmph or 7.8 kilometres per second. The American space agency’s Center for Near-Earth-Object Study (CNEOS) tracks and determines these objects as they approach close to the Earth.