An asteroid was “closely connected” with a communications satellite in geosynchronous orbit this week,media reported. The asteroid, which is 4 to 8 meters (13 to 20 feet) in diameter, flew over Earth at 18:49 BST on April 28 at a distance of about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles), making it one of the closest to Earth on record.
Geosynchronous satellites or geostationary satellites are located in the orbital zone above the equator and have an orbital period equal to that of the Earth’s rotation, which means that they are always above the same location. These satellites form the backbone of orbital communication systems, and mission planners struggle to ensure that spacecraft do not interfere with each other. Sometimes, however, unexpected dangers arise.
According to ESA, nasa’s Panorama Sky Survey telescope and rapid response system (Pan-STARRS) observed an object in Hawaii on April 26. The object, which was initially unidentified, was observed again the following night and given the temporary name P20Zlf8 — later changed to 2020 HS7.
2020 HS7 is more than just another asteroid. The results showed that there was a 10% chance of colliding with Earth, so space scientists immediately became interested. Less than an hour after the first report was released, China’s Star Ming Observatory mapped its location, trajectory and brightness. These observations were subsequently refined by the Tautenburg Observatory in Germany.
The good news is that the 2020 HS7 will not collide with Earth after all, and even if it does, it will burn in the atmosphere, and it will be very small. It is measured to be only 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) from the nearest satellite.
ESA said the 2020 HS7 flyby provided scientists with a quick and accurate exercise to track and describe new asteroid features, while coordinating follow-up observations and making extremely accurate measurements confirming that HS7 2020 is one of the 50 objects closest to Earth since records bemade.