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IPFS News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Earth's nearest miss on record as small asteroid zips by closer than ISS

• by Michael Irving

The asteroid, dubbed 2020 VT4, made its closest approach at 17:20 UTC on Friday, November 13. But it wasn't actually spotted until 15 hours later, by a survey called the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

That's the closest we've ever seen any asteroid swing past the Earth, and the competition isn't even close (no pun intended). This one is about eight times closer than the previous record holder, a rock named 2020 QG that whizzed by at a distance of 2,950 km (1,830 miles) in August this year.

Of course, the caveat in this record is that it's the closest asteroid that didn't become a meteor. Obviously all the rocks that have struck the Earth in the past came closer than 2020 VT4. Some have even been known to skim the planet's atmosphere like a stone skipping across water, creating a visible fireball before bouncing off back into the ether. But 2020 VT4 is the closest one has come without doing that.