Asteroid news: A space rock just came ‘extremely close’ to Earth – see its pictures HERE

The asteroid, officially designated 2020 HP6, reached its closest distance to Earth today (April 27) at about 3.40pm BST (2.40pm UTC). According to NASA, the asteroid came within 0.33 Lunar Distances or 78,082 miles (125,662 km) from Earth. Astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, who photographed the asteroid, said it made an “extremely close” flyby.

Dr Masi, head of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, said: “Later today, April 27, 2020, the near-Earth asteroid 2020 HP6 will have an extremely close, but safe encounter with our planet, coming as close as about 130,000km, a third of the average lunar distance.

“Last night, our robotic telescope captured this superb image.”

The astronomer snapped an image of the small space rock on Sunday night when it was about 435,000 miles (70,000km) from Earth.

The picture, which shows a speck of light against bright star trails, is a single 300-second exposure.

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The picture was taken with a 17-inch Planewave telescope.

Dr Masi said: “The telescope tracked the fast apparent motion of the asteroid, this is why stars show as long trails, while the asteroid looks like a sharp dot of light in the centre of the image, marked by an arrow.

“The very bright star on the right is Zaniah, Eta Virginis.

“At the imaging time, 2020 HP6 was at about 700,000km from the Earth and it was safely approaching us.

“It was discovered by the Pan-STARRS survey on April 22, 2020.”

The asteroid’s trajectory was also studied by NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).

Asteroid 2020 HP6 will have an extremely close, but safe encounter

Dr Gianluca Masi, Virtual Telescope Project

The US space agency confirmed the asteroid’s orbit last week.

According to NASA, Asteroid HP6 is flying through space at speeds of about 12.22km per second or 27,335mph (43,992kph).

Based on NASA’s estimates, the asteroid measures somewhere between 21.3ft and 36ft (6.5m and 11m) across.

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At the lower end of the estimate, the asteroid is about as tall as an adult giraffe.

At the upper end of NASA’s estimate, the asteroid is comparable in length to a London double-decker bus.

Although the asteroid was not expected to hit Earth, any object this small would burn up in the atmosphere before reaching the ground.

NASA believes space rocks up to 82ft (25m) across are unlikely to reach the ground.

Asteroids of various shapes and sizes frequently zip past our planet but rarely do they hit.

A car-sized rock hits the atmosphere once every year or so and larger asteroids hit on much longer timescales.

Asteroids that make so-called “close approaches” are tracked by NASA’s CNEOS.

NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, near-Earth objects (NEOs) can occasionally approach close to Earth.

“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”

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