Phew, that was close. An asteroid detected a couple of days ago passed by only half the distance from Earth to the moon. The worst part is that we barely saw it coming. According to Nasa’s Near Earth Object Program, around 38 or more ‘close approaches’ with asteroids of similar size to 2017 AG3 are expected in January of 2017 alone.
An asteroid around 34 meters in diameter passed very very close to earth, flying past us at half the distance from Earth to the Moon.
Called, 2017 AG13, the asteroid was discovered on January the 7th by the University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey, according to an article published by Space.com.
2017 AG13 was estimated to have had up to 43 meters across and traveled at a speed of 57,600km/h.
The Near Earth object came within 200,000 kilometers of Earth, or just half the distance to the moon. (54 percent of the distance to the moon, according to JPL data.)
“This is moving very quickly, very nearby to us,” said Eric Feldman, an astronomer with Slooh, during a live broadcast of the flyby at 7.47am Eastern Time on January 9. “It actually crosses the orbits of two planets, Venus and Earth.”
What would have occurred if the space rock had impacted our planet?
Researchers from the Purdue University created a simulator called “Impact Earth!” and looked into the possibility concluding that their results show that it wouldn’t have been as catastrophic as some believe.
Had 2017 AG13 –or another asteroid of similar dimensions— impacted Earth at a 45-degree angle, the Purdue University simulator found that it would have exploded as an airburst.
Furthermore, the blast would have released around 700 kilotons of energy, which is dozens of time more POWERFUL than the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima.
In fact, according to Purdue, such impacts tend to occur every 150 years or so.
According to Slooh – a robotic telescope service that can be viewed live through a web browser with Flash plug-in— 2017 AG3 was “roughly the same size as the asteroid that struck Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013”, meaning that similar ground effects –shattered windows and somewhat damaged buildings— may have been likely.
Interestingly, according to Nasa’s Near Earth Object Program, around 38 or more ‘close approaches’ with asteroids of similar size to 2017 AG3 are expected in January of 2017 alone.
“It is not that uncommon of an event, which is one of the reasons it is interesting,” said Mark Sykes, director, and CEO of the Planetary Science Institute.
The US Congress has given NASA the task of discovering around 90 percent of potentially hazardous NEOs, with a diameter of over 140 meters by 2020. However, the agency is nowhere near that goal according to reports.