PASADENA (CBSLA) — An asteroid the size of a school bus is expected to “safely zoom past” Earth on Thursday, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena said Tuesday.
A small near-Earth asteroid about the size of a small school bus will safely zoom past our planet around 13,000 miles (21,000 km) above the surface. The space rock will then make its way around the Sun, passing Earth again at a farther distance in 2041. https://t.co/z6uDogXn52 pic.twitter.com/c9Xv4PhNFi
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) September 23, 2020
“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,” Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at JPL, said. “In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two.”
The asteroid is expected to pass at a distance of about 13,000 miles above Earth’s surface, making its closest approach below the ring of geostationary satellites orbiting about 22,000 miles above the planet.
Based on the brightness of the asteroid, scientists estimate that it is roughly 15-30 feet in size. Scientists said if the space rock were on an impact trajectory with Earth, it would likely break up high in the atmosphere — becoming a bright meteor known as a fireball.
The asteroid was first discovered Sept. 18 by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, and scientists have ruled out any chance of impact. The space rock will make its closest approach at 4:12 a.m. Thursday morning before continuing its journey around the sun. It will not return to Earth’s vicinity until 2041.