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School bus size asteroid to zoom safely past the earth

About 15 to 30 feet wide, the object will approach on September 24th.

A small asteroid near Earth (or NEA) will visit Earth’s neighborhood briefly on Thursday, September 24 and zoom past at a distance of about 220,000 kilometers above the surface of our planet. The asteroid will approach during the ring of geostationary satellites orbiting about 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) from Earth.

Based on its brightness, researchers estimate that the 2020 SW is about 5 to 10 meters wide – or about the size of a small school bus. Even if it is not in a collision course with the earth, it would, if it were, almost certainly break up high in the atmosphere and become a bright meteor called a fireball.

“There are a large number of small asteroids like this, and several of them approach our planet so close to this several times each year,”

; said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “In fact, asteroids of this size affect our atmosphere at an average rate of about once a year or two.”

After the asteroid 2020 SW was discovered on September 18 by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, follow-up observations confirmed its orbit with high precision and ruled out any risk of impact. CNEOS researchers decided that it will approach 4:12 PDT (7:12 am EDT) on September 24 across the Southeast Pacific. After Thursday’s close approach, the asteroid will continue its journey around the sun and not return to Earth’s proximity until 2041, when it will make a much more distant flyby.

Asteroid 2020 SW's orbit

This animation from NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies shows the orbit of the asteroid 2020 SW as it safely passes through Earth on September 24, 2020. In addition, the location of a typical geosynchronous satellite (labeled “GEOSAT”) is shown, orbiting about 36,000 miles (36 000 miles) kilometers) over the Earth’s equator. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

›Larger view

In 2005, Congress assigned NASA the goal of finding 90% of terrestrial asteroids that are about 140 meters or larger. These larger asteroids pose a much greater threat if they collide, and they can be detected much further away from Earth, as they are simply much brighter than the small ones. It is believed that there are over 100 million small asteroids as of 2020 SW, but they are difficult to detect if they do not get very close to Earth.

“The detection capabilities of NASA’s asteroid surveys are constantly improving, and we should now expect to find asteroids of this size a few days before they reach our planet,” Chodas added.

A branch of Caltech in Pasadena, JPL hosts CNEOS for NASA’s Earth Earth Observation Program in NASA’s planetary defense coordination office. More information about CNEOS, asteroids and terrestrial objects can be found at:


For more information about NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, visit:


For asteroid and comet news and updates, follow @AsteroidWatch on Twitter:


News Media Kontakt

Ian J. O’Neill
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Josh Handal
NASA Headquarters, Washington


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