Space.com shares what we learned about how Earth’s gravity has affected 2020QG, a car-sized asteroid that became the closest to approach Earth without slamming into us:
Early Sunday morning (Aug. 16), the car-sized 2020 QG zoomed just 1,830 miles (2,950 kilometers) above the Indian Ocean, making the closest known flyby by an asteroid that didn’t end up slamming into our planet.
Though 2020 QG survived the encounter, its path through space was altered significantly, scientists said.
“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 the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said in a statement. “Our calculations show that this asteroid got turned by 45 degrees or so as it swung by our planet.”
Researchers didn’t learn of 2020 QG’s existence until the Zwicky Transient Facility, a survey telescope in Southern California funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and NASA, captured an image of the asteroid zooming away from Earth, six hours after closest approach.