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Ominous record: on Friday the 13th an asteroid passed below the ISS

Ominous record: on Friday the 13th an asteroid passed below the ISS 1

On Friday, November 13, 2020, asteroid 2020 VT4 set a historic record for close proximity to Earth. At some point, it was closer to our planet than the ISS. Moreover, astronomers noticed the uninvited guest only a few hours after the rendezvous.

At 17:20 UT, the heavenly stone passed over the South Pacific at an altitude of less than 400 kilometers. Never before has an asteroid been observed so close to our planet (except for those that fell on it).

The mark passed by a celestial body is even below the orbit of the International Space Station, not to mention geostationary satellites. However, as a result of the unexpected visit, not a single spacecraft was damaged (the ISS was at that moment over another region of the globe).

Interestingly, astronomers noticed 2020 VT4 only 15 hours after the rendezvous, when it was already moving away from the Earth. But you shouldn’t blame the scientists for negligence: the asteroid was approaching from the direction of the Sun, so it simply drowned in the glow of the star.

Ominous record: on Friday the 13th an asteroid passed below the ISS 2
The animation shows the movement of asteroid 2020 VT4 across the sky as observed by the ATLAS telescope.Illustration ATLAS / Larry Denneau.

According to Universe Today, the size of 2020 VT4 is estimated at 4-5 meters. For comparison: the body, fragments of which collapsed to the Earth in the region of Chelyabinsk in 2013 , had about 20 meters in diameter. So the fall of 2020 VT4 into the ocean would hardly have threatened serious consequences.

Having discovered an asteroid moving away from the planet, experts calculated its orbit. Curiously, the approach to the massive Earth has radically changed it. Now 2020 VT4 orbits the Sun not in 549, but in 315 days. However, the next date with our planet, the heavenly guest will have to wait until 2052. And even then he will pass from it at a solid distance of 1.8 million kilometers (that is, several times farther than the Moon).

Ominous record: on Friday the 13th an asteroid passed below the ISS 3
The orbit of asteroid 2020 VT4 before approaching the Earth (according to the results of calculations).Illustration by NASA / JPL.

The previous record of the asteroid’s approach to Earth was also set in 2020 . It belongs to the celestial body 2020 QG, which missed our planet in 2950 kilometers.

Of course, such an abundance of records does not mean that there are suddenly more asteroids near the Earth. Rather, it is a matter of closer observation of the sky. In other words, visitors have arrived before, but astronomers were unaware of this. Therefore, we probably still have many “close acquaintances” ahead. Indeed, the list of bodies potentially dangerous for the Earth includes several million objects.

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