Asteroid ‘size of double-decker bus’ came within 240 miles of Earth on Friday 13

A thirty-foot asteroid skimmed just a few hundred miles above the Pacific Ocean on Friday 13, but it wasn’t spotted until it had already missed us.

The potential meteor, named 2020 VT4 by astronomers, is roughly the size of a double-decker bus.

At that size it is unlikely to have reached the Earth’s surface even if it had been on a direct collision course – instead, it would almost certainly have burned p on entry onto the atmosphere – or even exploded like the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor that caused widespread property damage in a Russian city.

It’s the second near-miss from an asteroid this year. Back in August, asteroid 2020 QG passed within just 1,830 miles of Earth.

Worryingly, NASA astronomers didn’t spot that one until after it had passed us by either.

While there have been innumerable meteors and meteorites over the years, 2020 VT4 made the nearest known approach to the Earth of any asteroid that didn’t then go on to become a meteor.

Making such a close pass to the Earth has changed the asteroid’s orbit, making future close passes more frequent.

2020 VT4, previously classed as an Apollo asteroid, has now been reclassified under the Aten label – a group which contains most of the known potentially-hazardous asteroids.

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The object was discovered on November 14, by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) survey at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. It was only identified fifteen hours after its closest approach to Earth,

Currently, the most dangerous asteroid listed on NASA’s Sentry Risk Table is (29075) 1950 DA.

While the space rock is unlikely to collide with Earth until at least 2880, it’s well over half a mile wide and would be likely to cause considerable damage at ground level if it were to enter the Earth’s atmosphere intact, disrupting civilisation at an international level.

A predicted near pass with Main-belt asteroid 78 Diana in 2150 means (29075) 1950 DA’s orbit is unpredictable in the long term and an exact impact date can only be guessed at.

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