An asteroid the size of a car zoomed by Earth this past weekend and it was the closest fly-by without hitting our planet. The asteroid, called ZTF0DxQ or 2020 QG, passed by us on Sunday, August 16th at an extremely close distance of just 1,830 miles away. This gives it the title as being the closest non-impact asteroid that’s ever been recorded.
What’s even more amazing is that nobody saw it coming and the Palomar Observatory located in San Diego County, California, didn’t detect it until around six hours after it passed by. Paul Chodas, who is the director of NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies, told Business Insider, “The asteroid approached undetected from the direction of the sun,” adding, “We didn't see it coming.” “[Sunday’s] close approach is [the] closest on record,” he went on to say, “If you discount a few known asteroids that have actually impacted our planet.”
Space objects that travel from the direction of the sun are extremely hard to see so experts have to look for them in the night sky. But NASA is currently working on a space telescope with an infrared camera called the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission that would be able to detect asteroids coming from the direction of the sun that could be launched as early as 2025.
The car-sized asteroid (possibly between 10 and 20 feet in diameter) zoomed by us in a massive hurry as it was travelling at a speed of 27,600 miles per hour. Based on its size, it probably wouldn’t have caused any major damage to our planet or the current population as it more than likely would have exploded in our atmosphere, causing a large fireball in the sky. If any part of the asteroid would have crashed down on Earth, they would have been small pieces that wouldn’t have caused any significant harm.
According to observations, the asteroid flew over the Southern Hemisphere a little after 4:00 a.m. Universal Time (or midnight EST) on Sunday morning. At its closest approach to Earth, it flew over the Pacific Ocean on the far eastern side of Australia. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Small-Body Database Browser shows the flight pattern of the asteroid which can be seen here.