While rare at that size, asteroids more than a quarter-mile wide are capable of causing a disaster on the global scale. Astronomers across the globe are rigorously applying efforts at detecting and tracking near-Earth objects (NEOs).
The safety of our planet, however, was jeopardized over the weekend when scientists almost failed to detect a football field-sized asteroid heading towards Earth. Registered as G018 GE3, the asteroid made a surprise flyby on Sunday, passing our planet at roughly a third of the distance to the moon, or just 119,500 miles (192,317 kilometers).
With an estimated diameter of 157 to 361 feet (48 to 110 meters), the asteroid’s impact with the Earth could have caused substantial damage. For instance, the Tunguska meteorite (200 to 620 feet, or 60 to 190 meters) explosion in 1908 flattened 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles) of the eastern Siberian Taiga forest. It produced enough energy to be comparable to a nuclear explosion, becoming the largest impact event in recorded history.
Had the object, first observed at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona on Saturday, moving at a speed of some 66,174 miles per hour (106,497 km/h), hit the Earth, its impact would be difficult to imagine. For comparison, the Chelyabinsk meteorite that hit Russia in February 2013 was about three to six times smaller in diameter, yet its explosion in the atmosphere damaged over 7,000 buildings and injured some 1,500 people due to shattered glass.
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