Sunday, March 15, 2020

Newly Discovered House-sized Asteroid to Pass By Earth on March 22

A newly detected house-sized asteroid, designated 2020 DP4, is expected to fly by the Earth on Sunday, March 22, at around 19:31 UTC. The space rock will miss our planet with a relative velocity of 8.1 km/s, at a safe distance of about 3.51 lunar distances (LD), what corresponds to 1.34 million kilometers.

2020 DP 4 is an Apollo-type asteroid first spotted on February 27, 2020 by the Mount Lemmon Survey (MLS), which utilizes a 1.52 m cassegrain reflector telescope at Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona. MLS is one of the most prolific surveys when it comes to discovering near-Earth objects (NEOs). So far, it has detected more than 50,000 minor planets.

Observations show that 2020 DP4 has an estimated diameter between 18 and 57 meters. The object has an absolute magnitude of 25.1 and a semimajor axis of approximately 1.22 AU. It takes it about 1.35 years to fully orbit the sun.

Few hours after the fly-by of Earth, at around 3:57 UTC on March 23, 2020 DP4 is expected to pass by the moon at a distance of approximately 3.53 LD (1.35 million kilometers). On November 13, 2020, the asteroid will make a close approach to Mars, flying by the Red Planet at a distance of some 23.4 LD (8.98 million kilometers).

On March 15, there were 2,018 potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) detected, however none of them is on a collision course with our planet. PHAs are asteroids larger than 100 meters that can come closer to Earth than 19.5 LD (7.5 million kilometers).

To date, astronomers have discovered nearly 22,400 NEOs. Only this month, 12 such objects have been detected.

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