Earth's asteroid tracking systems detected a small asteroid just a day before it almost collided with the planet. According to astronomers, the incident helped demonstrate the reliability and effectiveness of asteroid tracking systems.
The asteroid that flew past Earth last month was identified as 2020 HS7. Astronomers estimated that it measures about 13 to 26 feet across.
2020 HS7's Near-Earth Collision
Asteroid tracking systems on Earth spotted the asteroid on April 27, which was just a day before its flyby. Through the data collected by the trackers, astronomers were able to predict that the asteroid would most likely skim Earth.
Based on the asteroid's trajectory, astronomers calculated that it had a 10% chance of hitting the planet. But, given the asteroid's small size, astronomers noted that the asteroid did not pose a threat to Earth even if it collides with the planet. Due to its size, it would have most likely disintegrated in the atmosphere.
"Small asteroids like 2020 HS7 safely pass by Earth a few times per month," Lindley Johnson, NASA's Planetary Defense Office said in a statement. "At its closest approach 2020 HS7 will pass Earth by a distance of about 23,000 miles/36,400 km. It poses no threat to our planet, and even if it were on a collision path with Earth it is small enough that it would be disintegrated by our Earth's atmosphere."
Tracking Approaching Asteroids
As the asteroid was about to make its approach, asteroid tracking systems predicted that 2020 HS7 would fly past Earth from only 26,554 miles away, which is nine times closer than the distance between the Earth and the Moon. From this distance, the asteroid flew close to the geostationary ring around Earth, which is a region around the planet where satellites operate in. As it flew past Earth, the closest distance it got to a satellite was about 746 miles.
Although the asteroid almost collided with one of Earth's satellites, its near-Earth visit is being lauded by astronomers. It helped demonstrate that even with just a day's notice, Earth's asteroid tracking systems can still accurately detect and predict the trajectory of approaching space rocks, Science Alert reported.
For the astronomers, 2020 HS7's near-Earth approach shows how tracking systems play a vital role in the protection of Earth.