According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Center for Near Earth Object Studies, the first space rock, a bus-shaped asteroid called 2020 RF3, is located at 5849 miles (94,000 kilometers) off our planet at 2:49 EDT (0649 GMT) is. This is equivalent to a distance of 239,000 miles (385,000 km), a quarter of the way to the Earth’s moon.
Hours later, a small, car-shaped asteroid 2020 RD4 made a similar close pass at 65,700 miles (about 106,000 km), at 4:33 pm EDT (2033 GMT), the center added. Italy’s Virtual Telescope Project hosted the livestream for the 2020 RD4 event.
Video: Bus and car-shaped asteroids zip by Earth on a single day
related: Potentially dangerous asteroid (pictured)
Asteroids come close to the Earth several times a year, because there are many thousands of them in our solar system. NASA and a network of telescopes keep a close watch for any dangerous space rocks through entities such as NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Fortunately, Earth has not received any immediate threat.
There are few recorded examples of asteroids causing damage in Earth’s history, which is why space experts monitor the skies. A recent well-known incident saw a six-story object collapsing on Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013, causing damage to the building and causing some injuries. More famously, the extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago is usually attributed to a very large object that slipped into our planet.
In addition to watching for threatened objects, astronomers studied asteroids to learn more about the formation of the early solar system. Asteroids and iconic objects known as comets are fragments of our cosmic neighborhood before much of the material in the planets and moons we saw.
Scientists routinely study asteroids with telescopes and, where possible, use spacecraft data to supplement their understanding. Two spacecraft are set to bring samples of the asteroid to Earth soon, which is a rare occurrence indeed.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REX (Origin, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is scheduled to swoop into the asteroid Beanu on October 20 and bring the sample back to Earth in September 2023. Meanwhile, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency has an agency. Its own mission, Hayabusa 2, which en route from the asteroid Rayugu to land on Earth on 6 December.
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