Associated Press

Sept. 25, 2020, 12:35 a.m. EDT

Asteroid comes closer to Earth than many communications satellites orbit

By Associated Press

NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP
This image from video made available by NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies shows the path of asteroid 2020 SW as it safely passes Earth on Thursday. Orbiting Earth is the location of a typical geosynchronous satellite (labeled "GEOSAT"), orbiting 22,000 miles above the Equator. At bottom right is the moon.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A recently discovered asteroid the size, if not shape, of a bus reportedly zoomed safely past Earth on Thursday.

The asteroid came within just more than 13,000 miles of Earth, well below many of the communications satellites orbiting the planet, scientists said. The closest approach had been expected to occur Thursday morning over the southeastern Pacific Ocean.

The asteroid won’t be back to Earth’s neighborhood until 2041.

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Scientists estimated the asteroid was between 15 feet and 30 feet in diameter — the size of a school bus, some news accounts asserted. By asteroid standards, that’s considered puny. Asteroids of this size hit Earth’s atmosphere and burn up once every year or two, said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There could be as many as 100 million of these little asteroids out there.

The real threat is posed by considerably bigger asteroids. The good news is that these are easier to spot much sooner than just a few days out.

Asteroid 2020 SW, as it is known, was discovered last Friday by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

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