Those who claim that space agencies can monitor the whole sky for cosmic threats are so naive, and we have another proof for it. On August 16, the asteroid known as 2020 QG flew within about 1,830 miles of Earth, and nobody has seen it coming on time. Besides the fact that it missed us, it was also just about the size of a car.
However, a program funded by NASA detected the 2020 QG asteroid only after six hours after its closest approach. This raises some concerns about the possibility to spot on time a dangerous asteroid that could really cause some damage to our planet.
It was a record
Paul Chodas, who is the director of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, declared the following:
Yesterday’s close approach is closest on record, if you discount a few known asteroids that have actually impacted our planet,
The 2020 QG asteroid skimmed our planet at a speed of about 27,600 mph. The object measures between 6 feet and 18 feet wide, which practically means a normal car. Chodas also tries to excuse the failure into detecting the asteroid on time:
There’s not much we can do about detecting inbound asteroids coming from the sunward direction, as asteroids are detected using optical telescopes only (like ZTF), and we can only search for them in the night sky,
He further added:
The idea is that we discover them on one of their prior passages by our planet, and then make predictions years and decades in advance to see whether they have any possibility of impacting.
The 2020 QG asteroid was clearly not dangerous, and the “Impact Earth” simulator from Imperial College London and Purdue University reveals that asteroids so small would mostly disintegrate in the atmosphere due to the air friction. Even if an asteroid would be made of iron, it will still disintegrate.