National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronomers noticed the car-sized sight only once it had already drifted away.

Seeing the stars shining in the night sky is not the only intergalactic phenomenon you can spot, but some sights are far rarer than others. One such example of these rare space occurrences? This past weekend, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronomers discovered a car-sized asteroid floating close by the Earth, The Daily Mail reports. The asteroid—also called the "2020 QG"—was between six and 18 feet in diameter and the closest space rock known to pass by the planet in history without actually causing impact.

An asteroid approaching Earth
Credit: Getty / Science Photo Library - ANDRZEJ WOJCICKI

The Palomar Observatory initially noticed the asteroid, but the space rock had already passed by the Earth at that point—this was also about six hours after it was in a prime location over the planet (which happened at about 12 a.m. eastern time on Sunday). Part of the reason it may have been missed is because it only passed over one specific region of the Earth: the southern hemisphere. The approximate distance of the space rock's travel is equal to driving from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Málaga, Spain, the outlet revealed.

After making its way by the Earth, the asteroid apparently started traveling deep into the galaxy. "The asteroid approached undetected from the direction of the sun," Paul Chodas, director at the NASA Center for Near Earth Object Studies, told Business Insider. "We didn't see it coming."

Astronomers spent more time researching the asteroid, finding that it passed by the Earth at almost eight miles per second—equal to 27,720 miles per hour. While the discovery was one of a kind, the fact that it was noticed after it had already passed the planet is nothing to worry about. Even if it had actually made contact with the Earth, the asteroid would have crumbled once it went through the planet's atmosphere and had a small chance of fragments touching down on land or causing harm.


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