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On May 4th, a tiny asteroid missed Earth… but just barely

7 May 2020, 13:00 UTC
On May 4th, a tiny asteroid missed Earth… but just barely
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I guess the Force was with us: In the early morning hours of the 4th of May, a small asteroid 3-6 meters* across passed by the Earth, missing our world by a mere 7,000 kilometers — only about the radius of the Earth itself! It passed so close to us its orbit was significantly changed by Earth's gravity, too.

Before you panic, at this diameter (about the size of a car) it wouldn't have done any real damage even if it had hit us. But it would've put on a helluva show, creating an intensely luminous fireball easily brighter than the full Moon as it burned up and broke apart in our atmosphere, probably a few dozen kilometers above the Earth's surface. It’s also likely small pieces would’ve made it to the ground as meteorites, too. But it did indeed miss us and is now on its way out.

It was discovered just hours before closest approach by the automated Catalina Sky Survey, an observatory in Arizona. It sweeps the sky repeatedly, looking for moving objects like asteroids. The asteroid, subsequently called 2020 JJ**, was detected in four observations taken in the minutes around 06:00 UTC. Astronomers were alerted, they ...

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