Last week, astronomers observed a brand new space rock passing the Earth and a little bit too close for comfort to one of our communications satellites.
As New Atlas reports, the space rock has been given the official name of 2020 HS7. It measures up to eight meters in diameter and was determined to have about a 10 percent chance of hitting Earth. If it had, the asteroid would burn up in the atmosphere before it could do any damage. However, 2020 HS7 did pose a risk to our network of communications satellites.
According to the European Space Agency (ESA), 2020 HS7 passed very close to the geostationary ring where satellites orbit. The distance of the asteroid to Earth was roughly 42,735km (26,554 miles), putting it at risk of potentially colliding with a comms satellite (from the European Data Relay System). Luckily, it passed “under” the nearest satellite at a distance of 1,200km (746 miles). It may sound like the asteroid was a long way away, but the ESA classes it as “one of the closest flybys ever recorded.”
The reason why we didn’t hear about 2020 HS7 well in advance is because it was only spotted on April 27 by NASA’s Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii. It passed Earth on April 28. The good news is, even though 2020 HS7 wasn’t spotted until a day before it performed a flyby, observers around the world compiled enough information to determine it would safely pass Earth. According to The Watchers, this is the 36th known asteroid to pass Earth within one lunar distance this year.