Earth Gravity Dramatically Change Asteroid Path

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Earth Gravity Dramatically Bend Trajectory Path Of Flyby Asteroid

The record-breaking asteroid 2020 QG won’t soon forget its run-in with Earth. Early Sunday morning (Aug. 16), the car-sized 2020 QG zoomed just 1,830 miles (2,950 km) above the Indian Ocean , making the closest known flyby by an asteroid that did not end-up slamming into our planet.

Though 2020 QG survived the encounter, its path through space was altered significantly, scientists said.

“It’s really cool to ascertain alittle asteroid come by this close, because we will see the Earth Gravity dramatically bend its trajectory,” Paul Chodas, director of the middle for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said during a statement. “Our calculations show that this asteroid got turned by 45 degrees approximately because it swung by our planet.”

Researchers didn’t learn of 2020 QG existence until the Zwicky Transient Facility, a survey telescope in Southern California funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation & NASA, captured a picture of the asteroid zooming faraway from Earth, 6 hours after closest approach.

That image shows 2020 QG as a blurry streak — no surprise, considering that the space rock was rocketing along at about 29,000 mph (46,700 kph). As speedy as that’s , it is a little slower than average for a near-Earth asteroid, Chodas said.

 Illustration of Asteroid 2020 QG trajectory bending during its close approach to Earth
 Illustration of Asteroid 2020 QG trajectory bending during its close approach to Earth
Source : space

There are many many near-Earth asteroids out there about an equivalent size as 2020 QG, which is assumed to be 10-20 feet (3-6 meters) wide. Such tiny space rocks are very hard to detect, but they pose no danger to life on Earth.

“If it (2020 QG) had actually been on an impact trajectory, it might likely became a fireball because it broke up in Earth atmosphere, which happens several times a year,” NASA officials wrote within the same statement. (Fireballs are meteors that blaze more brightly than Venus in our skies.)

Big asteroids are a touch worrisome, however. for instance , scientists think a 6 mile wide space rock did within the dinosaurs when it barreled into Earth 66 million years ago.

NASA has found and tracked quite 95% of the mountain-sized asteroids in Earth neighborhood, and none of them pose an impact risk in the foreseable future. The space agency is currently working to compile a similarly comprehensive catalog of the near-Earth asteroids a minimum of 460 feet (140 m) wide, which might do devastating damage on a regional scale if they hit.

Such work has practical applications beyond simply warning people about an impending impact. With enough notice — a minimum of a couple of years, preferably — humanity could deflect an incoming asteroid, experts say.

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