Skip to main content

Small asteroid zips safely by Earth just ahead of a larger space rock's flyby

A small newfound asteroid (opens in new tab) gave Earth a close shave today (April 28) on the event of another flyby by a much larger space rock, according to NASA. 

The asteroid, called 2020 HS7 (opens in new tab), is between 13 and 24 feet (4 to 8 meters) in size and passed Earth at a distance of 23,000 miles (36,400 kilometers) when it made its closest approach at 2:51 p.m. EDT (1851 GMT). That range is close to the orbits of some geosynchronous satellites about 22,000 miles (36,000 km) above Earth.

While that sounds close, there was never any risk to our planet, NASA officials said.

"Small asteroids like 2020 HS7 safely pass by Earth a few times per month," NASA's Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson,  the program executive for the Planetary Defense Coordination Office at agency's Washington, D.C. headquarters, said in a statement (opens in new tab). "It poses no threat to our planet, and even if it were on a collision path with Earth it is small enough that it would be disintegrated by our Earth's atmosphere."

Webcast: See the huge asteroid 1998 OR2 live tonight from Slooh!

This NASA graphic shows the path of the newfound asteroid 2020 HS7, which passed safely by Earth on April 28, 2020 at a distance of 23,000 miles (36,400 km). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Asteroid 2020 HS7's flyby comes just one day before the close approach of a much bigger space rock: the asteroid 1998 OR2. That space rock will pass Earth early Wednesday, April 29, at 5:55 a.m. EDT (0955 GMT).

With a diameter of about 1.5 miles (2 km), asteroid 1998 OR2 is much larger than 2020 HS7, but it's also passing Earth at a much greater distance -- about 3.9 million miles (6.9 million km). That's about 16 times the distance between the Earth and the moon (about 239,000 miles, or 385,000 km). 

Despite its size, asteroid 1998 OR2 is too small and dim to be seen with the unaided eye. But you can see it through telescopes tonight thanks to a webcast from Slooh.com (opens in new tab)

The webcast, which you can also see here (opens in new tab) courtesy of Slooh, begins at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) and will last an hour.

Scientists at NASA and around the world regularly track asteroids that come close to the Earth in order to identify ones that might one day endanger our planet. These so-called "near-Earth objects" are ones that approach within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million km). 

To date, astronomers have discovered 22,776 near-Earth objects, and new ones are being found at a rate of 30 each day, NASA officials said. More than 95% of those objects were found through NASA-funded surveys, they added.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.

OFFER: Save 45% on 'All About Space' 'How it Works' and 'All About History'! (opens in new tab)

For a limited time, you can take out a digital subscription to any of our best-selling science magazines (opens in new tab) for just $2.38 per month, or 45% off the standard price for the first three months.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.