Tuesday 22 December 2020

Asteroid 2020 YN passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2020 YN passed by the Earth at a distance of about 1 150 000 km (3.00 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 0.77% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun), at about 12.40 pm GMT on Tuesday 15 December 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 YN has an estimated equivalent diameter of 5-17 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 5-17 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) between 40 and 25 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface.

The closest approach of 2020 YN to the Earth on 15 December 2020. JPL Small Body Database.

2020 YN was discovered on 17 December 2020 (two days after its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon Survey at the Steward Observatory on Mount Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The designation 2020 YN implies that the asteroid was the 13th object (asteroid N - in numbering asteroids the letters A-Z excluding I, are assigned numbers from 1 to 25, with a number added to the end each time the alphabet is ended, so that A = 1, A1 = 26, A2 = 51, etc., which means that N = 13) discovered in the second half of December 2020 (period 2020 Y - the year being split into 24 half-months represented by the letters A-Y, with I being excluded).

The orbit and current position of 2020 YN. The Sky Live 3D Solar System Simulator.

2020 YN has a 452 day (1.24 year) orbital period, with an elliptical orbit tilted at an angle of 9.58° to the plain of the Solar System which takes in to 0.59 AU from the Sun (59% of the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, between the orbits of the planets Mercury and Venus) and out to 1.71 AU (171% of the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, and more than the distance at which the planet Mars orbits the Sun). 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). This means that Asteroid 2020 YN has occasional close encounters with the Earth, with the most recent having happened in June 2019, and the next predicted for May 2024. The asteroid also has occasional close encounters with the planet Venus, with the next predicted in March 2091.

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