A pandemic, a presidential election, now an asteroid headed our way. But it, too, will pass

Image showing the projected path of asteroid 2020 SW
This image shows the projected path of asteroid 2020 SW as it passes Earth on Thursday.

An asteroid the size of a school bus is headed our way, but in spite of swinging far closer than many of the satellites orbiting Earth, the space rock should zoom safely by on Thursday, NASA says.

The newly discovered asteroid will come within 13,000 miles of Earth, scientists said this week. The closest approach will occur Thursday morning over the southeastern Pacific Ocean.

Once it’s gone, the asteroid won’t be back in Earth’s neighborhood until 2041.


Scientists estimate the asteroid to be between 15 feet and 30 feet. By asteroid standards, that’s considered puny. Asteroids of this size hit Earth’s atmosphere and burn up once every year or two, said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There could be as many as 100 million of these little asteroids out there.

Considerably bigger asteroids are the real threat. The good news is that these are easier to spot much sooner than just a few days out.

Asteroid 2020 SW, as it is known, was discovered last Friday by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona in Tucson.