Asteroids have been in the news lately. For months, the internet was buzzing with interest and anticipation of 1998 OR2, the 2 kilometer(1.5 mile) wide asteroid that made its closest approach to Earth on April 29th at a distance of 3.9 million miles.
1998 OR2 was never on course to impact Earth, but if it did, it would be a Global Impact Event.
But while everyone was waiting to see if 1998 OR2 might go off course and slam into Earth, a small asteroid named 2020 HS7 made a much closer flyby passing just 26,550 miles above Earth. It was so close that it passed below a geostationary satellite, missing it by 750 miles. The Pan-STARRS observatory in Hawaii discovered the asteroid that is 13 to 26 feet (4 to 8 meters) in diameter just one day before it flew past us Earthlings. 2020 HS7 rates as one of 50 closest passes on record, making it somewhat more interesting than the big rock 3.9 million miles out in space.
Not to be outdone, asteroid 2020 JJ gave astronomers no advance notice. JJ was discovered as it zipped past Earth on May 4th at an elevation of just 4,350 miles (7,000km). JJ is no larger than 20 ft (6m) in size so it likely would have burnt up in the atmosphere if it’s trajectory aimed it closer to Earth. 2020
JJ comes in as the sixth closest approach ever recorded.
The top 10 close approaches have all come since 2004. This could be a result of astronomers getting better at spotting and tracking asteroids, or could it be that there are more and more asteroids making close approaches?
2020 has been a busy year already for close approaches. 2020 JJ is the 40th known asteroid to fly within 1 LD(Lunar Distance) (flying between the Earth and Moon) since the start of the year and the second this month.
2019 had 67 asteroids pass within 1 LD, but only 20 by May of last year. That means there were 47 close flybys in the last 7 months of 2019, and we’ve seen another 40 close passes in the first four months of 2020.
We’ve had 87 near misses in the past eleven months!
Is the frequency of flybys increasing?
Is this the beginning of an asteroid storm like the one described in the fictional novel ASTEROIDS – Bridge to Nowhere?
Hold on to your hats….there are sure to be more surprise close calls in 2020.