Monday, 23 March 2020

Asteroid 2020 FC2 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2020 FC2 passed by the Earth at a distance of about 766 500 km (2.00 times the average  distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 0.51% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly after 5.10 pm GMT on Monday 16 March 2020. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though were it to do so it would not have presented a significant threat. 2020 FC2 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 5-15 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 5-15 m in diameter), and an object of this size would be expected to explode in an airburst (an explosion caused by superheating from friction with the Earth's atmosphere, which is greater than that caused by simply falling, due to the orbital momentum of the asteroid) in the atmosphere between 40 and 26 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's  surface.

 The calculated orbit of 2020 FC2. JPL Small Body Database.

2020 FC2 was discovered on 17 March 2020 (the day after its closest approach to the Earth) by the Japan Space Agency's Janess-G 0.25 m telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. The designation 2020 FC2 implies that it was the 54th asteroid (asteroid C2 - in numbering asteroids the letters A-Y, excluding I, are assigned numbers from 1 to 24, with a number added to the end each time the alphabet is ended, so that A = 1, A1 = 25, A2 = 49, etc., which means that C2 = 6 + (24 X 2) = 54) discovered in the second half of March 2020 (period 2020 F).

2020 FC2 has a 771 day (2.11 year) orbital period, with an elliptical orbit tilted at an angle of 6.82° to the plain of the Solar System which takes in to 0.98 AU from the Sun (98% of the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) and out to 2.30 AU (230% of the distance at which the Earth orbits the sun and further from the Sun than the planet Mars).  It is therefore classed as an Apollo Group Asteroid (an asteroid that is on average further from the Sun than the Earth, but which does get closer).

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