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Incoming: Did You Know There Was an Asteroid Closer to Us Than the Moon?

Friday, January 13, 2017 15:27
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by Daisy Luther, Daisy Luther:

It’s always unnerving to learn that there was a giant hunk of space rock flying so close to the Earth you almost needed to duck.

Like the asteroid that did a fly-by at just half the distance between the Earth and the moon on Monday of this week.

Unlike the movie Armageddon, we may not have enough warning for Bruce Willis and friends to get on a rocket and go blow it up before it hits us. reports:

Monday at 7:47 A.M. EST, an asteroid passed by Earth at about half the distance between our planet and the Moon—roughly 119,500 miles, reports Mike Wall at The space rock, dubbed 2017 AG13 was on the “smallish” size as far as asteroids go, Wall reports, thought to be between 36 and 111 feet wide.

But the most interesting thing about this near miss is that astronomers didn’t spot the space rock till Saturday. It managed to fly under the radar for so long because the asteroid was fairly dim and moving fast (roughly ten miles per second). But just days before it passed us by, researchers at University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey caught a glimpse.

The IBTimes described it as “the size of a house.”

The near miss of a PHA (Potentially Hazardous Asteroid) especially alarming when:

A) it’s large

B) it’s coming close to Earth.

C) we didn’t even realize it was there.

A little bit of information about asteroids

Asteroids originate far out in the cold, dark depths of the solar system. These lumps of rock vary in size from football to mountain-sized roughly round ball. They carry on their way through the vacuum of space unless something comes along that changes their trajectory.

Moving an asteroid from one path or direction to another can happen in a couple of ways:

It bumps into another asteroid or a lump of space debris and, surviving the impact, either intact or in pieces it “bounces” off in another direction.

It gets caught in the gravitational pull of a much more massive celestial body and settles into an orbit around that body.

Impact craters all over the Earth and the moon testify to the fact that we’ve been hit on many occasions. And unfortunately, the experts don’t always see it coming.

A large strike can cause wildfires, massive destruction, and even tsunami if they hit the ocean.

The damage posed by a direct hit can be affected by the composition of the object itself. One made predominantly of iron would hurtle through our atmosphere relatively unchanged and create an enormous amount of damage when it impacted. One with less iron and more rock usually explodes in the atmosphere.

And as you’ll learn, one that explodes before it hits the Earth can wreak a lot of damage, too. (If you haven’t signed up for updates like this one, go here. It’s free and you get 9 PDFs with your subscription.)

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