An astrophysical record was set last Friday the 13th when an asteroid It passed at a distance of 400 kilometers from Earth and we didn’t even notice.
The space rock called VT4 2020 became the closest asteroid that has passed the planet without becoming a meteor -name it acquires when it enters the atmosphere-, a record that had already been broken this year, on August 16, with the passage of the asteroid 2020 QG 3,000 kilometers from the Earth’s surface.
The asteroid was detected on Saturday morning, November 14, 15 hours after its approach to our planet, by the Asteroid Earth Impact Last Warning System (ATLAS) at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
Asteroid-2020 VT4 is estimated to be between 5 and 10 meters wide, about the size of a small house. Unfortunately the passage of this asteroid seems to have left no witnesses.
The closest approach occurred at 17: 2 Universal Time (UT) on Friday, November 13 over the South Pacific near the Pitcairn Islands and followed the edge of the earth’s scrap into outer space. It could have been seen by any observer or sailor who, located in the south of the island of Tasmania, was seeing the sky shortly before dawn.
For reference, it should be noted that the International Space Station orbits about 400 kilometers from Earth, the exact distance that the asteroid passed.
However, no satellite, including the International Space Station that was orbiting over the South Atlantic at that time, was affected by the passage of VT4 2020, although the asteroid managed to skim the ring of low Earth orbit and passed through the sphere. of geostationary satellites.
But rest assured, that even if the VT4 2020 had deviated and hit the Earth, it would not have caused such serious damage as to extinguish the species, at most it would have left a pretty sight, leaving in its wake a field of meteorites that would look like a beautiful shower of stars.
Other similar records had occurred in 1972, when an asteroid was captured on video as it became a bright fireball that was seen passing on the morning of August 10 over the Great Teton Mountains in Wyoming (United States) before jumping. of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Or in 2008, when astronomers detected the four-meter long asteroid TC3 2008 19 hours before it hit Earth and then recovered its fragments in the Nubian desert north of Sudan two months later, making this the first asteroid to be documented before and after impact.
The last asteroid to hit the Earth causing considerable damage was registered in February 2013 in the Russian city of Chelyabins. That space rock was 20 meters in diameter and was traveling at a speed of 70 thousand kilometers per hour, accelerating when it entered the atmosphere until it fell into the sea and produced a large wave after the impact that left some 1,500 people injured.
VT4 2020 will visit Earth again on November 13, 2052 with a much more distant pass of 0.02 AU (1.8 million miles, nominal). The 2020 VT4 record will be hard to beat, but 2020 is not over yet, a year full of surprises.