Asteroid 2020 JN passed by the Earth at a distance of about 249 200 km (0.65 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 0.17% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly after 3.20 am GMT on Tuesday 5 May 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 JN has an estimated equivalent diameter of 6-20 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 6-20 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 37 and 20 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface.
60 second image of 2020 GN2 taken with the Elena Planetwave 17" Telescope at Ceccano in Italy on 4 May 2020. The asteroid is the small point at the centre of the image, indicated by the white arrow, the longer lines are stars, their elongation being caused by the telescope tracking the asteroid over the length of the exposure. The line across the bottom right section of the image is a satellite that moved across the field of vision during the exposure. Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope.
2020 JN was discovered on 4 May 2020 (the day before its closest encounter with the Earth) by the University of Hawaii's PANSTARRS telescope. The designation 2020 JN implies that it was the 13th asteroid (asteroid N) discovered in the first half of May 2020 (period 2020 J).
2020 JN has a 468 day (1.28 year) orbital period, with an elliptical orbit tilted at an angle of 2.78° to the plain of the Solar System which takes in to 0.40 AU from the Sun (40% of the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, and slightly outside the orbit of the planet Mercury) and out to 1.96 AU (196% 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).
2020 JN also has frequent close encounters with the planets Mercury, which it last passed in November 1979, and is next predicted to pass in June 2023, Venus, which it last passed in August 2006, and is next predicted to pass on 27 May this year (2020), and Mars, which it last passed in April 1997. Asteroids which make close passes to multiple planets are considered to be in unstable orbits, and are often eventually knocked out of these orbits by these encounters, either being knocked onto a new, more stable orbit, dropped into the Sun, knocked out of the Solar System or occasionally colliding with a planet.
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