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Asteroid alert: 11-meter space rock to fly past Earth this weekend
Asteroids regularly pass by our planet during their journey through space. This weekend, another rock is set to approach Earth, as NASA has detected.
NASA has detected an asteroid traveling through space at a rate of 11.1 kilometers per second or around 40,000 kilometers per hour. The asteroid is formally referred to as 2020 TK3 and will be approaching Earth this weekend, specifically on Saturday, October 17. After it passes by Earth this weekend, it will then drop by the orbits of two other neighboring planets - Venus and Mercury - before returning back to the direction of Earth and Mars.
TK3 measures 11 meters in diameter and is classified as a Near-Earth Object. When it approaches, it will only get as far as 1.3 lunar distances. It should be noted that one lunar distance is equivalent to the space between our planet and the Moon. This would still be extremely far in our terms, but close enough to be noticed. Fortunately, with TK3 being a relatively small asteroid, it does not pose a threat to Earth as it will likely burn up when it meets our atmosphere, coming across as a shooting star or a fireball in the sky.
Previously, astronomers have detected an unusual object approaching Earth that was initially thought to be an asteroid. The so-called “asteroid” was first picked up by a telescope in Hawaii, and was recorded as such by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. From the way it approached and orbited the Earth, it was then thought to be a “mini-Moon.” However, NASA scientist Paul Chodas claims to have solved the mystery behind this “asteroid.”
Referred to as 2020 SO, Chodas revealed that this is not an asteroid at all, but rather leftover debris from an old rocket from a failed mission to the Moon. Chodas observed the way it was orbiting around the planet and concluded that it could not be a mini-Moon nor an asteroid. Chodas believes that it belonged to the Centaur upper rocket that was used to bring the agency’s Surveyor 2 lander to the Moon, the lander ultimately crashing on the lunar surface when one of its thrusters failed to fire up.