Close Call! An Asteroid Whizzed Past Earth at an Alarmingly Close Distance
It's terrifying to think that an asteroid can come crashing down on Earth without warning, but a recent incident was a reminder that this is a very real possibility.
According to a report from Space.com, a small asteroid known as 2017 AG13 did in fact speed past the planet on the morning of Monday, January 9.
More significantly, the object was closer than comfort too and barely missed Earth when it flew past. For comparison, the moon sits about 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) away from the Earth on average. The 2017 AG13 was just half of this distance away when it zoomed past the planet.
Astronomers at the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts observed that this asteroid is likely about 36 to 111 feet (11 to 34 meters) wide. It was discovered just last Saturday, January 7 by a team at the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey.
A report from Astronomy.com revealed that 2017 AG13 was flying at a speed of roughly 10 miles (16 kilometers) per second. This speed combined with the size of the asteroid and its low brightness made it hard for scientists to spot it through the telescope.
The damage of this asteroid's impact would have been similar to the effect of Chelyabinsk meteor back in 2013, according to Popular Mechanics. Estimated at about 20 meters (66 meters) in diameter, the incident had most of the meteor fizzling out as it entered the Earth's atmosphere. However, hot debris did crashed to the ground, destroying property and injuring people in Russia.
NASA tends to focus on larger near-Earth objects (NEO) that could be incredibly catastrophic. In October 2015, a 470-meter (1,500 feet) asteroid flew just beyond the orbit of the moon. Such a large-sized object would cause so much destruction if it ever crashes into the planet.