A car-sized asteroid made the closest Earth flyby a space rock has ever survived

A newly discovered car-sized asteroid just made the closest-known flyby to Earth without hitting our planet.

On Sunday (Aug. 16), the asteroid, initially labeled ZTF0DxQ and now formally known to astronomers as 2020 QG, swooped by Earth at a mere 1,830 miles (2,950 kilometers) away. That gives 2020 QG the title of closest asteroid flyby ever recorded that didn't end with the space rock's demise. 

It's the closest known, non-impacting asteroid, NASA officials told Space.com

Video: See asteroid 2020 QG's orbit around the sun!
Potentially dangerous asteroids (images)

The car-sized asteroid 2020 QG made the closest Earth flyby ever recorded on Aug. 16, 2020.

The car-sized asteroid 2020 QG made the closest Earth flyby ever recorded on Aug. 16, 2020.  (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The flyby wasn't expected and took many by surprise. In fact, the Palomar Observatory didn't detect the zooming asteroid until about six hours after the object's closest approach. "The asteroid approached undetected from the direction of the sun," Paul Chodas, the director of NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies, told Business Insider. "We didn't see it coming."

Related: Famous asteroid flybys and close calls (infographic)

"Yesterday's close approach is [the] closest on record," Chodas told Business Insider. "If you discount a few known asteroids that have actually impacted our planet."

The close flyby was also a fast one, as 2020 QG swooped near Earth at a blistering 27,600 mph (44,400 kph). The object is about the size of a compact car, perhaps about 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters) in diameter. 

According to the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, 2020 QG flew over the Pacific Ocean, far east of Australia, during its close approach. To explore the daredevil asteroid for yourself, you can check out NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's small-body database browser here

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.


Chelsea Gohd joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2018 and returned as a Staff Writer in 2019. After receiving a B.S. in Public Health, she worked as a science communicator at the American Museum of Natural History. Chelsea has written for publications including Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine, Live Science, All That is Interesting, AMNH Microbe Mondays blog, The Daily Targum and Roaring Earth. When not writing, reading or following the latest space and science discoveries, Chelsea is writing music, singing, playing guitar and performing with her band Foxanne (@foxannemusic). You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd.