Earlier today, the near-Earth asteroid 2020 UF3 safely came very close to our planet, reaching a minimum distance from the Earth of about 42000 km, 11% the average distance of the Moon. It was moving extremely fast in the sky, setting a record for the Virtual Telescope facility.
The image above comes from a single, 3-seconds (just three seconds!) exposure, remotely taken with the “Elena” (PlaneWave 17″+Paramount ME+SBIG STL-6303E) robotic unit available at Virtual Telescope. At the time of the image above, 2020 UF3 was at its minimum distance from our observatory (39600 km) and the telescope was tracking at its extremely fast rate of 7000″/minute (2 degrees per minute, four times the angular size of the lunar disk) apparent motion : this is the fastest asteroid we ever observed. The image above is a superb demonstration of the performances of our robotic system, mainly its mount.
We also scheduled a last-minute live feed, sharing this exceptional object in real-time with the community. We collected enough images to make the time-lapse below, including 128 frames: it shows the asteroid moving 88X faster than in reality.
This 5.7 – 13 meters large asteroid was discovered by the Mt. Lemmon survey on 21 Oct. 2020 and reached its minimum distance from the Earth on 22 Oct. 2020, at 22:17 UTC (source: Nasa/JPL). Of course, there were no risks at all for our planet.