Near-Earth objects and close calls


The Living Force
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The Living Force
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The Leonids meteor shower will reach its maximum before dawn tomorrow (11/18). This is a meteor captured by a wide-angle camera from Hiratsuka to the southern sky from midnight to dawn yesterday. The number of lions is small, but it is lively with the addition of lions and scattered meteors. Please look for the sky.

It looks like the fireball that flowed at 21:51 on November 17, 2020 was seen with a wide-angle camera from his home in Hiratsuka toward the southeastern sky. Simultaneous observation has not been established because it was not possible to take pictures at Fuji.

Piece of fireball captured by the cameras of the Smart project @iaa_csic @jmmadiedo
the full video

Big racing car above the #Suéde#Svealand 2020-11-07 21:27 UTC #meteorite in sight! video from #Tampere#Finlande

This video has been uploaded on the American Meteor Society Website.
AMS Event: 6710-2020, Report 213295 (6710a-2020) - Aliso Viejo US

The Leonids seen by a newly installed #globalmeteornetwork camera in Spain. A good crop for the first night of operation!
Credit: José Luis Martín Velasco (Picture)


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Just a short update on the graph above and all the associate data: It looks like we have already (as of now) broken the above record from last year by quite a margin in 2020, and we still have two months to go for this year! And that's despite the Covid-Nonsense probably having significantly decreased the observership capabilities this year with observatories being shut down and such. I'll update all the data next year. Stay tuned!
Can't wait.

It's been a crazy year both on planet and off.

Yep and the following one will be in the list as the All-Time-Recordbreaker in terms of closeness to the earth:

Asteroid 2020 VT4 makes extremely close approach to Earth at just 0.02 LD - breaks record for the closest asteroid flyby

"2020 VT4" scraped past earth last Friday only 380 Kilometers away from the surface (and was detected 12 hours too late), which beats the previous record that was established by "2020 QG" in August 2020 with a distance of 2,950 kilometers (detected 6 hours too late). It is getting hot.


The Living Force
Source (Dutch only): Vuurbol te zien boven Nederland: ‘Geluk als je 'm zag’

Fireball seen over the Netherlands: 'Lucky if you saw it'

A beautiful shooting star has shown up over the Netherlands tonight just before 19.00 hours. 'Wow. This is what we call a fireball, because it was so bright', says weatherman Michiel Severin of Weerplaza.

Simone van Zwienen - 20 November 2020, 21:55

The shooting star was spotted near Schiphol Airport and over Groningen. 'Very impressive ', let someone know via Twitter. Dennis Elbers even managed to capture the fireball with his dash-cam.

According to meteorologist Severin, it happens regularly that a fireball can be seen. "But of course you have to be lucky to see it. The fact that it was captured on a dash-cam is pure luck, but it is the best method because the camera is already on. If you see it live, you don't have time to grab the camera".

The meteor showed itself for about eight to ten seconds, before it extinguished. "And that's usually the case," says Severin. "A thing like that burns high in the atmosphere, so a very large part of northwestern Europe can see it. Certain meteor swarms have an increased risk of fireballs, because that space debris contains larger stones. Last Tuesday we had the peak of the Leonids. Possibly it was part of that, but before we know that for certain more information needs to be gathered".

Translated with (free version)

Dash-cam video here (0:28 min):
Gespot: zo zag de vuurbol boven Nederland eruit

Other coverage (all Dutch):
Spectaculaire vuurbol gefilmd boven Nederland


The fireball could even be seen above the brightly lit highway at Schiphol Airport

Vuurbol waargenomen boven Nederland, 'circa 20 seconden zichtbaar'
Vuurbol boven Stad gezien - OOG Radio en Televisie


The Living Force
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A coffin maker in Indonesia become a millionaire in a freak occurrence which saw a meteorite worth around £1.4m crashed through the roof of his home.

Josua Hutagalung was working on a coffin outside his house in the town of Kolang when the 2.1kg rock came hurtling through the tin veranda outside his living room.

After recovering from the noise, the 33-year-old found the piece of space debris by digging into the soil in his garden.

“The sound was so loud that parts of the house were shaking too. And after I searched, I saw that the tin roof of the house had broken,” he told Indonesia’s Kompas newspaper. “When I lifted it, the stone was still warm.”

The meteorite is carbonaceous chondrite, an extremely rare variety estimated to be 4.5 billion years old – and reportedly worth around £645 per gram.



The Living Force
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An asteroid the size of a Dubai's Burj Khalifa is heading towards Earth.

23 Nov, 2020
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The Living Force
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So much stuff in the sky latley ..................🤔
9-11 minute Read
Posted by Eddie Irizarry and Deborah Byrd in Space | November 23, 2020
On September 17, 2020, astronomers spotted an object on approach to Earth. They assigned it an asteroid label: 2020 SO. Orbit models quickly showed, however, that both the low speed and trajectory of the approaching object were unusual. The models also showed Earth would capture this object – temporarily – as a new mini-moon. And, on November 8, Earth did capture this object. Now, following a 3-month analysis of its motion, NASA has confirmed the object is likely no natural object at all. Instead, it appears to be a relic of the early Space Age, a Centaur upper-stage rocket booster, once called America’s workhorse in space. This particular rocket might be the one that launched the ill-fated Surveyor 2 spacecraft toward the moon in 1966.

View larger. | This animation shows the orbit of 2020 SO that was captured by Earth’s gravity on November 8, 2020. It will escape in March 2021. Its motion has been speeded up a million times faster than real time. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The lost rocket, if that’s what it is, is expected to remain a captive of Earth from October 2020 until March 2021.

It appears to have been pushed from its original trajectory by a small but continuous pressure from sunlight.

It won’t be the first time Earth has captured a mini-moon. But it’s an awesome story of a lost-and-found rocket, originally launched from Earth more than 50 years ago.

By the way, 2020 SO will come extremely close to Earth – about 30,000 miles (50,000 km or 0.13 times the average lunar distance) on December 1. Virtual Telescope will be showing this intriguing object live a few hours before its fly-by: the live feed is scheduled for November 30, starting at 5 p.m. EST (22 UTC). Translate UTC to your time and see the poster below for more.

Astronomers first sighted the object in September using the 71-inch (1.8-meter) Pan-STARRS1 telescope at Maui, Hawaii. They gave it its designation – 2020 SO – and added it as an Apollo-type asteroid in the JPL Small-Body Database.

However, 2020 SO was quickly seen to have some features that set it apart from ordinary asteroids. According to NASA/JPL calculations, the object sped past Earth’s moon at a speed of 1,880 miles per hour (3,025 km/h) or 0.84 km per second (.5 mi/sec). That is an extremely slow speed for an asteroid.

These calculations also show the apparent “slow asteroid” orbiting the sun every 1.06 years (387 days). The low relative velocity, along with the Earth-like orbit, both suggest it as an artificial object launched from our planet.

On December 1, 2020, the object labeled 2020 SO will come extremely close – about 30,000 miles (50,000 km or 0.13 times the average lunar distance). Virtual Telescope will be showing this intriguing object live a few hours before its fly-by: the live feed is scheduled for November 30, 2020, starting at 5 p.m. EST (22 UTC; translate UTC to your time). Click here for more information on the live viewing.

It was Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object center at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who first suggested the object might be the rocket booster of Surveyor 2, a robotic spacecraft that was launched to the moon on September 20, 1966. Surveyor 2 was meant to be the second lunar lander in the uncrewed American Surveyor program to explore the moon. The spacecraft blasted into space atop an Atlas LV-3C Centaur-D rocket from Cape Kennedy, Florida.

A mid-course correction failure caused space controllers to lose contact with the craft three days later, after a thruster failed to ignite. The failure caused the spacecraft to tumble and ultimately to crash near the moon’s Copernicus crater.

View larger. | A model of the ill-fated Surveyor lander, which crashed on the moon in 1966. Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech.

Speed ahead to our time and the strange object designed 2020 SO. The object has an estimated size between 20 and 45 feet (6 to 14 meters), a not-unreasonable match for the dimensions of an Atlas LV-3C Centaur-D (approximately 41 feet or 12 meters).

How could we have lost an entire 41-foot-long rocket? Space archaeologist Alice Gorman of Flinders University in Australia told ScienceAlert that – before our modern era of reuseable rockets – the rockets that launched craft into space were surprisingly easy to lose. She said:
There are so many factors in the space environment, like gravitational factors and other things that affect movement, that it can sometimes be quite unpredictable.
You have to keep tracking these things, or you can just sort of lose sight of them really easily. And if they do something a little bit unpredictable, and you look the wrong way, then you don’t know where it’s gone. It is quite astonishing, the number of things that have gone missing.

NASA explained that pressure from the sun’s radiation caused the object to change its trajectory:
The pressure exerted by sunlight is small but continuous, and it has a greater effect on a hollow object than a solid one. A spent rocket is essentially an empty tube and therefore is a low-density object with a large surface area. So it will be pushed around by solar radiation pressure more than a solid, high-density clump of rock – much like an empty soda can will be pushed by the wind more than a small stone.

View larger. | This 1964 photograph shows a Centaur upper-stage rocket before being mated to an Atlas booster. A similar Centaur was used during the launch of Surveyor 2 two years later and could now be the object known as 2020 SO … a new temporary mini-moon for Earth. Image via NASA.

This isn’t the first time Earth has captured a mini-moon.

As you might have realized by now, space is chock full of small asteroids. Once in a while, one of these space rocks is captured, temporarily, by our planet’s gravity before being cast out back into the solar system at large. Two confirmed mini-moons are 2006 RH120 (in Earth orbit between 2006 and 2007), and 2020 CD3 (in our orbit between 2018 and 2020).

It’s also not the first time we’ve mistaken space junk for an asteroid.

Another small object that was initially thought to be an asteroid was WT1190F, detected in October 2015 on approach to Earth. Its trajectory suggested it was about to penetrate Earth’s atmosphere near Sri Lanka, in the Indian Ocean, an event that happens with ordinary asteroids several times every year.

As WT1190F was disintegrating in our atmosphere on November 13, 2015, scientists analyzed its light via spectroscopy.

This analysis suggested the object might be a spacecraft component or part of a spent rocket, another wandering piece of space junk, returning home.


2020 SO isn’t the first thought to be an asteroid, and later realized to be human-made space junk. Here’s an object tagged as WT1190F entering Earth’s atmosphere south of Sri Lanka on November 13, 2015. Image via IAC/ UAE/ NASA/ ESA.

So is 2020 SO an ordinary asteroid? Or is it an old earthly rocket returning home? We don’t know yet, but we expect to find out. NASA explained:
Before it leaves, 2020 SO will make two large loops around our planet, with its closest approach on December 1.
During this period, astronomers will get a closer look and study its composition using spectroscopy to confirm if 2020 SO is indeed an artifact from the early Space Age.


Strange space object 2020 SO was discovered on September 17, 2020 on approach to Earth. On November 8, it slowly drifted into Earth’s sphere of gravitational dominance, a region called the Hill sphere that extends roughly 930,000 miles (1.5 million km) from our planet. That’s where 2020 SO will remain for about 4 months before it escapes back into a new orbit around the sun in March 2021. During that time, it will make 2 large loops around our planet. In this image, the Earth is the blue dot in the center. The moon’s orbit is the white circle. Image via Tony Dunn (@tony873004 on Twitter).

Bottom line: A newly discovered “asteroid” might become a new mini-moon for Earth. This object is designated 2020 SO and was entered in JPL’s Small-Body Database. But it might be no ordinary asteroid. It might be a lost rocket from the Surveyor 2 mission, originally launched from Earth more than 50 years ago.

It looks like the fireball that flowed at 23:27 on November 23, 2020 was seen with a wide-angle camera facing the high sky north of Fuji. A slight meteor mark remained. It was a fireball of the sigma meteor shower in Hydra.


The Living Force
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An asteroid larger than Statue of Liberty will fly past Earth on Thursday.

3 Dec, 2020
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The Living Force
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Snip Corey S. Powell 12-16 minute Read
Where are the most important places to explore in the solar system?

The leading answers to that question have shifted over the years, driven by scientific discoveries, public curiosity, technological realities, and political agendas. For human exploration, the list of plausible destinations has always been short: Earth-orbit and the Moon. (Mars is achievable, no doubt, but we are not at all technologically ready to go there right now.) For robotic probes, the list started in the same place but kept going: inward to Mercury and the Sun itself, outward past Neptune and Pluto.

For the most part, though, we've ignored the other 99.9999 percent of the objects in the inner solar system: the asteroids. There are, by current estimates, nearly two million asteroids more than a kilometer in diameter. Collectively, they represent a landscape greater than the surface of the Moon, but we'd never seen one up close until 1991. Even now, we've visited just a dozen of them. The asteroids didn't get much love.

That's about to change: There currently are nine dedicated asteroid missions underway or in development (ten if you include MMX, a Japanese mission to Mars's inner moon, Phobos, which might be a captured asteroid). Hayabusa2 is about to swing past Earth next week, dropping off samples of asteroid Ryugu over Australia. OSIRIS-REx will follow behind with a larger cache of rocks that it recently collected from another small asteroid, Bennu.

The next round of asteroid missions will try out a bunch of unusual styles of exploration. Lucy will visit the Trojan asteroids that move in the same orbit as Jupiter. The Psyche mission will travel to the asteroid Psyche — a mysterious object that appears to be composed almost entirely of metal. As a bonus, the same rocket that carries Psyche will also launch Janus, two miniature probes that will examine a pair of binary asteroids. DESTINY+ will head to Phaethon, a "rock-comet" asteroid that appears to be crumbling because it passes so close to the Sun. And NEA Scout will use a solar sail to navigate to a near-Earth asteroid.

Most dramatic of all, the DART spacecraft will ram full-speed into a small asteroid Dimorphos in 2022. The goal is to test out a technique for deflecting a dangerous asteroid if we discover one coming our way; four years later, the Hera probe will follow up to assess the damage.

In the fall of 2022, the DART spacecraft will execute a high-speed collision with 160-meter-wide asteroid Dimorphos, seen here orbiting its larger companion, Didymos. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL)

In the fall of 2022, the DART spacecraft will execute a high-speed collision with 160-meter-wide asteroid Dimorphos, seen orbiting its larger companion, Didymos. (Credit: NASA/JHU-APL)

It looks like a long-path meteor that flowed at 23:58 on December 4, 2020 was seen with a wide-angle camera from Hiratsuka to the high sky north. It wasn't bright enough to be called a fireball, but it continued to shine even outside the field of view of this camera, shining for nearly 7 seconds. Since Fuji was cloudy, simultaneous observations have not been established.

AMS event #7369-2020
•Dec 5, 2020 (IA and IL on Friday, December 4th 2020 around 09:43)


Major Showers to come

Hmm, 🤔 there's still some uncertainty of what this claimed sixties era object may be.

Using data collected at NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) and orbit analysis from the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scientists have confirmed that Near-Earth Object (NEO) 2020 SO is, in fact, a 1960’s-Era Centaur rocket booster.
The object, discovered in September by astronomers searching for near-Earth asteroids from the NASA-funded Pan-STARRS1 survey telescope on Maui, garnered interest in the planetary science community due to its size and unusual orbit and was studied by observatories around the world.

Further analysis of 2020 SO’s orbit revealed the object had come close to Earth a few times over the decades, with one approach in 1966 bringing it close enough to suggest it may have originated from Earth. Comparing this data with the history of previous NASA missions, Paul Chodas, CNEOS director, concluded 2020 SO could be the Centaur upper stage rocket booster from NASA’s ill-fated 1966 Surveyor 2 mission to the Moon.

Equipped with this knowledge, a team led by Vishnu Reddy, an associate professor and planetary scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, performed follow up spectroscopy observations of 2020 SO using NASA’s IRTF on Maunakea, Hawai’i.

“Due to extreme faintness of this object following CNEOS prediction it was a challenging object to characterize” said Reddy. “We got color observations with the Large Binocular Telescope or LBT that suggested 2020 SO was not an asteroid.”

Through a series of follow up observations, Reddy and his team analyzed 2020 SO’s composition using NASA’s IRTF and compared the spectrum data from 2020 SO with that of 301 stainless steel, the material Centaur rocket boosters were made of in the 1960’s. While not immediately a perfect match, Reddy and his team persisted, realizing the discrepancy in spectrum data could be a result of analyzing fresh steel in a lab against steel that would have been exposed to the harsh conditions of space weather for 54 years. This led Reddy and his team to do some additional investigation.

“We knew that if we wanted to compare apples to apples, we’d need to try to get spectral data from another Centaur rocket booster that had been in Earth orbit for many years to then see if it better matched 2020 SO’s spectrum,” said Reddy. “Because of the extreme speed at which Earth-orbiting Centaur boosters travel across the sky, we knew it would be extremely difficult to lock on with the IRTF long enough to get a solid and reliable data set.”

However, on the morning of Dec. 1, Reddy and his team pulled off what they thought would be impossible. They observed another Centaur D rocket booster from 1971 launch of a communication satellite that was in Geostationary Transfer Orbit, long enough to get a good spectrum. With this new data, Reddy and his team were able to compare it against 2020 SO and found the spectra to be consistent with each another, thus definitively concluding 2020 SO to also be a Centaur rocket booster.

“This conclusion was the result of a tremendous team effort,” said Reddy. “We were finally able to solve this mystery because of the great work of Pan-STARRS, Paul Chodas and the team at CNEOS, LBT, IRTF, and the observations around the world.”

2020 SO made its closest approach to Earth on Dec. 1, 2020 and will remain within Earth’s sphere of gravitational dominance—a region in space called the “Hill Sphere” that extends roughly 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from our planet—until it escapes back into a new orbit around the Sun in March 2021. As NASA-funded telescopes survey the skies for asteroids that could pose an impact threat to Earth, the ability to distinguish between natural and artificial objects is valuable as nations continue to explore and more artificial objects find themselves in orbit about the Sun. Astronomers will continue to observe this particular relic from the early Space Age until it’s gone.

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


The Living Force
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