An RV-size asteroid will zip by the Earth Thursday, closer than the moon and some satellites

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An asteroid about the size of an RV or small school bus will zoom past the Earth on Thursday, NASA announced, passing within 13,000 miles of the Earth's surface.

That's much closer than the moon and is actually closer than some of our weather satellites.

Closest approach of this asteroid – named 2020 SW – should occur at around 7:18 a.m. EDT Thursday, according to EarthSky. At its closest approach, the asteroid should pass nearby at just 7% of the moon’s distance. The moon's average distance from the Earth is 238,900 miles.

The space rock will be speeding by at roughly 17,200 mph, NASA says.

Based on its brightness, scientists estimate that 2020 SW is roughly 15 to 30 feet wide, according to NASA. Although it's not on an impact trajectory with Earth, if it were, the space rock would almost certainly break up high in our atmosphere, becoming a bright meteor known as a fireball.

An illustration shows a near-Earth asteroid like asteroid 2020 SW traveling through space.
An illustration shows a near-Earth asteroid like asteroid 2020 SW traveling through space.

"There are a large number of tiny asteroids like this one, and several of them approach our planet as close as this several times every year," said Paul Chodas, director of the center for near-Earth object studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement. "In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two."

It's too small to be visible with the naked eye, EarthSky said.

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The asteroid was discovered only last week, on Sept. 18, by the Mount Lemmon Survey in Arizona, and announced the next day by the Minor Planet Center, a NASA-funded group that monitors minor planets, comets and natural satellites, according to Live Science.

After Thursday's close approach, the asteroid will continue its journey around the sun, not returning to Earth's neighborhood until 2041, when it will make a much more distant flyby, NASA said.

There are likely more than 100 million small asteroids like 2020 SW, but they are hard to discover unless they get very close to Earth.

"The detection capabilities of NASA's asteroid surveys are continually improving, and we should now expect to find asteroids of this size a couple days before they come near our planet," Chodas said.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Asteroid the size of an RV to zip by the Earth on Thursday

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