The South African

Bus-sized Asteroid 2020 SW will pass closer to Earth than the Moon

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There is an asteroid that is about to link into Earth’s orbit. Here’s what you need to know about the newly-discovered space rock, Asteroid 2020 SW.

It will make its approach at a distance that is closer than some satellites in orbit. It is, however, not expected to impact the Earth, according to the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Asteroid 2020 SW: What you need to know

A Near-Earth Object (NEO)

The trajectory of the asteroid means that it will be close enough for the earth’s gravity to influence it.

This asteroid has been named 2020 SW and is travelling at a speed of 5.62 km/s. This speed means that it may burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists have not yet confirmed the size of the Asteroid, but CNEOS did put out a rough estimate of between 4.4 and 9.9 meters.

2020 SW was discovered last week, on 18 September, by the Mount Lemmon Survey in Arizona. They released a statement the next day at the Minor Planet Center. This is a group that is funded by NASA to monitor minor comets, satellites, or planets.

Watch: How to photograph Asteroid 2020 SW

There is technology in place that is monitoring the asteroids trajectory and based on high precision orbit computations done by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), experts did confirm that the Asteroid would not hit Earth.

Once the asteroid gets close to the Earth, it won’t be seen again until 3 June 2029. This conclusion is drawn up by researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
As it approaches, it will reach a visual magnitude of 13.0 to 13.5.

This is too faint to be seen by the naked eye, but if you own a 15cm or 20cm diameter telescope, you may get a chance to catch a glimpse of it. It will look like a “star” moving very slowly. This is because of the distance.

Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, explained:

“There are a large number of tiny asteroids like this one, and several of them approach our planet as close as this several times every year. In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two.”

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