Asteroid flybys are common occurrences, with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) tracking down every asteroid of varying sizes that orbit our Sun and could get close to us.
Asteroid Flyby Was Rather Too Close
It's also natural for these space rocks to zoom by us, others further away than the moon and others closer, with the agency seeing them as a "potential threat."
Nevertheless, there was recently an asteroid that flew quite near us, between our planet and the moon, and it caught astronomers by surprise, never really knowing what happened until it did.
According to a report by Global News, the asteroid passed by us this early June, and it's the biggest asteroid that flew by close to us in nine years.
The asteroid, which NASA named Asteroid 2020LD, is roughly the size of a football field at around 80 to 200 meters wide. The NASA tracking data said that it flew incredibly close to us at 306,000 kilometers, especially compared to the vast space.
In context, that is 80% closer than the moon.
Catching Astronomers by Surprise
Astronomers were only able to discover it on June 7, two days before it passed by us, catching them by surprise.
With Asteroid 2020LD's size and speed and with NASA not knowing it was zooming so close to us, an impact from the asteroid would have caused a nuclear-sized explosion and capable of wiping out an entire city, according to the impact predictor created by Purdue University.
In a report by Forbes, Asteroid 2020LD was discovered through the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) located in Hawaii.
ATLAS was funded by NASA and specifically designed to spot city- or planet-killing asteroids deemed "potentially dangerous" as they might hit our planet and cause some catastrophic incident.
Nevertheless, ATLAS failed to expect Asteroid 2020LD and was only able to detect and follow its trajectory days after it passed by us.
ATLAS Missing Space Rocks
However, this was not the first time a giant space rock was missed by the telescope and by astronomers that only rely on these devices.
In 2019, a massive asteroid is known as 2019 OK also flew much closer to our planet at only 73,000 kilometers and had the size of 100-meters. Experts were able to detect it at the last minute as it came from the Sun's direction, making it harder to see.
It will take years before 2019 OK, and Asteroid 2020LD pose any threat to us once again, so we can take a breather knowing we will be safe from the planet- and city-killing space rocks for now and that NASA has a plan in case the worst-case scenario is most likely to happen.
And even though ATLAS missed Asteroid 2020LD, it doesn't mean it's not doing a good job.
So far, astronomers were able to catalog a total of 46 potentially dangerous asteroids through the telescope. They are continually tracking down every space rock that might come near us and cause harm.