The Asteroid known as 2020 VP1 has been voyaging through the solar system, coming close to Earth in the process. On 11 November, the asteroid came within just half the distance of the Earth and the Moon, allowing astronomers to photograph it.
Experts at the Virtual Telescope Project snapped an image of the passing space rock as it shot by our planet.
At 18 metres wide and being more than 180,000 kilometres away, the Virtual Telescope carried out an impressive feat to photograph the small asteroid from such a distance.
The asteroid was only discovered the day before it travelled past Earth, as NASA satellites picked it up.
Observations from the space agency showed that the asteroid was travelling at a 21.8 kilometres per second, or more than 78,000 kilometres per hour.
The Virtual Telescope Project said: “A couple of hours ago, the near-Earth asteroid 2020 VP1 had a extremely close, but safe, approach with our planet, reaching a minimum distance from the Earth of about 184000 km, 0.48 times the average distance of the Moon.
“We imaged it last night, contributing to compute its orbit.
“At the imaging time, asteroid 2020 VP1 was at about 830000 km from the Earth and approaching us.
“It was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey on 10 November 2020.
“As you can see from the MPEC 2020-V67 Circular, our observations (470 Ceccano) done while the asteroid was waiting for confirmation contributed to the the computation of its orbit.
“This 7.9 – 18 meters large asteroid reached its minimum distance (about 184000 km) from us on 11 Nov. 2020, at 06:594 UTC.
Even if the asteroid was on a collision course with our planet, it would pose no risk.
At 18 metres wide, the space rock would simply burn up in the atmosphere, similar to the Chelyabinsk incident.
In 2013, a 20-metre space rock hurtled towards Earth, making its way through the atmosphere before exploding above the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia.
The asteroid explosion was so powerful that it caused damage to more than 7,000 buildings and injured more than 1,400 people.