Near miss asteroid whizzed by in the weekend

An asteroid whizzed past us in the weekend with little warning it was on it’s way. It was only detected 21 hours before it’s closest approach, giving no time to do anything but observe.

It missed Earth by about half the distance to the moon, so we weren’t close to disaster, but that’s a near miss in the scale of the solar system.

Space.com: ‘Tunguska’-Size Asteroid Makes Surprise Flyby of Earth

An asteroid similar in size to one that exploded more than 100 years ago in Russia’s Tunguska region in Siberia gave Earth a close shave on Sunday (April 15), just one day after astronomers discovered the object.

The asteroid, designated 2018 GE3, made its closest approach to Earth at around 2:41 a.m. EDT (0641 GMT), whizzing by at a distance of 119,400 miles (192,000 kilometers), or about half the average distance between Earth and the moon, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies(CNEOS).

NASA estimated that this asteroid measures 157 to 360 feet (48 to110 meters) wide, making the space rock up to 3.6 times the size of the one that leveled 500,000 acres (2,000 square kilometers) of Siberian forest when it exploded over Tunguska in 1908.

So quite a bit bigger than than the Tunguska asteroid. If an asteroid like that hit Earth the odds are it would hit water or uninhabited land, but it would make quite a mess if it struck a populated area.

The asteroid 2018 GE3 was first spotted on Saturday (April 14) at 5:23 a.m. EDT (0923 GMT) by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey, a NASA-sponsored program based at the University of Arizona in Tucson. This first sighting occurred just 21 hours before the asteroid’s closest approach to Earth.

So it was seen on Saturday about 9 pm NZ time, and it’s closest approach was about 6 pm on Sunday NZ time, so if it struck near here it would have missed making the evening TV news.

This was closer miss than usual but ‘near misses’ are common. The database at NEO Earth Close Approaches shows 139 ‘close approaches’ within the last 60 days.

On 21 February and also on 2 March and again on 18 and 30 March Earth was missed by asteroids by less than the 2018 GE3 approach, but most are much further away.

If one does strike there may not be much we can do about it but hope it is somewhere else. Would we be warned in advance of impending doom? There was a lot of attention given to the Chinese space station re-entry, but there was plenty of notice for that.

If a ‘not missing’ approach is detected a day or a week or a month before it gets here I wonder if we will be told about it.

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5 Comments

  1. Griff

     /  April 18, 2018

    I wonder if we will be told about it.
    Would you really want to know?

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  April 18, 2018

      I would. I’d hope somehow they image it too.

      Reply
    • Zedd

       /  April 18, 2018

      They could send all the NRA members out with their semiautos to shot it down ? :/

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 18, 2018

        I wish that we’d been told and been able to see it.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  April 18, 2018

          Chances of being able to see it with naked eye or even the average telescope would be near zero I should think Kitty. Way, way too small at that distance & wouldn’t be reflecting much sunlight if any. Most satellites we can see are in low earth orbits, metal, and far more luminous.

          Reply

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