An amateur astronomer has observed a huge asteroid more than half a mile away, and is located near the Earth.
But there is no need to panic. The asteroid 2020 QU6 will miss our planet at 25 million miles.
Nevertheless, it would be sufficiently classified as an Earth-near-object (NEO), whose orbit falls within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun (an astronomical unit is the distance between the Sun and Earth). .
A little related to this is that no official space agency saw this asteroid before amateur astronomer Leonardo Amaral saw it.
This is because major sky surveys are all based in the Northern Hemisphere, making it difficult to see objects approaching the Southern Hemisphere. Watching from an observatory in Brazil, Amaral was able to see the asteroid.
Amal observed the asteroid at the Campo dos Amaris Observatory using a 0.3-meter reflector, recently thanks to a grant from the Planetary Society that is awarded to amateur astronomers tracking potentially dangerous space objects. It supports the work of space agencies on planetary security, such as NASA’s upcoming Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission (NEOSM), which is scheduled to launch in 2025.
“This finding reminds us that even though we have found the largest NEOs, we have not found all of them,” Casey Dreyer, chief counsel for the Planetary Society and senior space policy adviser, said in a statement. “We should support ground-based astronomers to protect the Earth now and in the future and invest in new space-based capabilities such as NEOSM.”
There are regular news about asteroids for Earth, including one about the asteroid recently passed by Earth the day before the US presidential election. But experts say that despite the frequency of stories, there is no problem with more asteroids. In fact, the number of surveys of the sky means that we will be able to see them more than before.
“In the news, we hear more and more frequently about asteroid discoveries, because we are better at finding and tracking Earth’s asteroids,” the Planetary Society’s chief scientist Bruce Bates said in the statement. “There aren’t suddenly more asteroids, we’re getting better at seeing them.”