Conrad Duncan, The Independent•August 22, 2020
The Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the celestial object, known as 2018VP1, is predicted to pass near Earth one day before the US presidential election on 2 November.
The space agency said there were three potential impacts but, “based on 21 observations spanning 12.968 days”, it did not think a direct impact was likely.
2018VP1, which was first identified at Palomar Observatory, California, in 2018, is not considered a “potentially hazardous object” due to its small size – with a diameter of 0.002 km (about 6.5 feet), according to Nasa data.
Potentially hazardous objects – usually asteroids or comets – are those which have an orbit taking them close to Earth and are large enough to cause significant regional damage if they ever hit the planet.
Earlier this week, an asteroid flew just 1,830 miles over the southern Indian Ocean – the closest such an object has flown past Earth on record.
The object, known as asteroid 2020 GC, was spotted by the Zwicky Transient Facility, a robotic camera which scans the sky, and is thought to be roughly the size of a large car.
Its small size meant asteroid 2020 GC did not pose much of a threat to Earth as it would have likely broken up in the planet’s atmosphere if it was on course for direct impact.
“It’s really cool to see a small asteroid come by this close, because we can see the Earth’s gravity dramatically bend its trajectory,” Paul Chodas, director of CNEOS, said of the discovery.
“Our calculations show that this asteroid got turned by 45 degrees or so as it swung by our planet.”