Asteroids or even comets passing close to our planet is always a popular topic, but what “close” means in cosmic terms is not defined that well. For a comet, it could be something like a few million miles. On the other hand, for an asteroid, that could mean large distances, way beyond the moon’s orbital distance of about a quarter-million miles. Because of that, asteroids that come closer to us than our moon really catch the attention of the public, especially if the space rock is a large one. Such was the case with asteroid 2020 LD, which came very close to Earth on June 5, flying by at just 8% of the moon’s distance (306,675 km or 190,559 miles).
At about 400 feet (122 meters) in diameter, 2020 LD is the biggest asteroid to have ever come within one lunar-distance in almost a decade. The last time this happened was back in 2011. What’s more, this particular asteroid is one of the biggest ones to ever fly this close to Earth without being detected. It is true, 2020 LD passed by our planet without being detected on June 5. People only noticed the enormous space rock and announced the fact that it passed by our planet two days later, on June 7.
Astronomers using the 0.5 meter ATLAS telescope located in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, initially noticed this Apollo type asteroid traveling at almost 100,000 km/h (60,826 miles per hour) relative to Earth. After analyzing the trajectory of the asteroid, researchers came to the realization that the closest approach that the asteroid had to our planet had occurred two days before, on June 5.
Space rocks fly between the moon’s orbit and Earth quite often. Between January 1 to June 9, 2020, 28 asteroids came close to our planet. Then again, 2020 LD is not your average asteroid.