- Record Number of Unknown Asteroids Seen Whizzing Past Earth in 2020 – And It Could Be Broken Again in 2021
by Strange Sounds, https://strangesounds.org/
Astronomers detected thousands of previously unknown near-Earth asteroids last year. And this record may be broken this year AGAIN…
Two weeks ago, a 340-metre-wide space rock named Apophis whizzed safely past Earth.
The next time it returns, in 2029, won’t be so uneventful: Apophis will come within 40,000 kilometres of the planet, skimming just above the region where some high-flying satellites orbit. It will be the first time that astronomers will be able to watch such a big asteroid pass so close to us.
Last week’s fly-by gave scientists a chance to test the worldwide planetary defence system, in which astronomers quickly assess the chances of an asteroid hitting Earth as they follow its path across the night sky.
“It’s a fire drill with a real asteroid,” says Vishnu Reddy, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson who coordinated the observing campaign. The Apophis fly-by highlights how much astronomers have learnt about near-Earth asteroids — and how much they still have to learn.