On Aug. 16, a space rock the size of a car zipped past Earth at a distance too close for comfort – approximately 1,830 miles. What’s even more disconcerting is that NASA never saw it until after it had happened. According to a report by Business Insider, it was the closest ever recorded, according to asteroid trackers and a catalog compiled by Sormano Astronomical Observatory in Italy. The report said the space rock, because of its size, most likely wouldn’t have posed any danger to people on the ground had it struck our planet. But it noted that “the close call is worrisome nonetheless, since astronomers had no idea the asteroid existed until after it passed by.”
“The asteroid approached undetected from the direction of the sun,” Paul Chodas, the director of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies, told Business Insider. “We didn’t see it coming.” The space rock was first detected, about six hours after it flew by Earth, by the Palomar Observatory in California. The record-breaking nature of the event was confirmed by Chodas: “Yesterday’s close approach is closest on record, if you discount a few known asteroids that have actually impacted our planet,” the report quoted.
According to the report, NASA is aware of only a fraction of near-Earth objects (NEOs) like this one, as many do not cross any telescope’s line of sight, and in recent years, several potentially dangerous asteroids have snuck up on scientists. If the wrong one slipped through the gaps in our NEO-surveillance systems, it could kill tens of thousands of people, the report noted. This recent near-Earth asteroid, initially called ZTF0DxQ, is now formally known to astronomers as 2020 QG. The Business Insider report said it first learned about it from the creator of the website orbit-simulator.com, Tony Dunn. –Penn Live