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Astronomy: Newfound asteroid to make a near-Earth approach on November 20

An expert says the asteroid poses no threat from the estimated distance.

• November 12, 2020
Photo used to illustrate this story (popularmechanics.com)
Photo used to illustrate this story (popularmechanics.com)

Sources on Thursday said an asteroid discovered by Chinese astronomers would make a near-Earth pass next week posing no threat to the planet.

Sources with the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences made the announcement, adding that the asteroid was first spotted by the observatory on November 6.

The observation stations in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy and the U.K. had since kept a close eye on it, confirming its existence and determining its orbit.

The Minor Planet Centre under the International Astronomical Union on Sunday confirmed the asteroid discovery and designated it 2020 VA1.

The closest distance the newly discovered object would be from the sun was about 145 million km.

According to the observatory, the asteroid is heading toward Earth and is expected to make a flyby at 08:08 a.m., Beijing Time on Nov. 20.

Zhao Haibin, an astronomer with the observatory, said the asteroid is expected to approach a distance of 4.48 million km from Earth’s surface, or about 11.7 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

“Given the huge distance, the asteroid will pose no threat to Earth,’’ Mr. Zhao said.

The Chinese observatory’s Near-Earth Object Telescope enables China to carry out long-term asteroid monitoring and warning tasks, qualifying the country to join the International Asteroid Warning Network.

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