Sunday, 20 May, 2018

GE3, the massive asteroid that grazed the Earth on Sunday

How a Football Field Size Asteroid Caught Us by Surprise An artist's concept of a"generic asteroid flyby. Credit Shutterstock
Grady Vargas | 18 April, 2018, 03:17

The asteroid "2018 GE3", which was slightly larger than the one that exploded over Tunguska in Siberia in 1908, flattening 2,000 square kilometers of forest, passed at a distance of 192,300 kilometers, nearly half the distance of the Moon from Earth, according to the US Space Agency (NASA).

2018 GE3 was first observed the day before its closest pass, by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, a Nasa-funded project supported by the Near Earth Object Observation Program. That's a little under half the distance between the Earth and the Moon. According to NASA, hours later, at about 5:59 a.m. EDT on April 15, the space rock passed even closer to the moon than it had to Earth.

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 hard to imagine. It may make you feel much better (or even worse) to understand that asteroids get in Earth's environment undetected on a relatively routine basis.

"If 2018 GE3 had hit Earth, it would have caused regional, not global, damage, and might have disintegrated in the atmosphere before reaching the ground", SpaceWeather.com reported.

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With an estimated diameter of 157 to 361 feet (48 to 110 meters), asteroid 2018 GE3 has about three to six times the diameter of the space rock that penetrated the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013, causing more than 1,000 people to seek treatment for injuries, mostly from flying glass. Astronomers across the globe are rigorously applying efforts at detecting and tracking near-Earth objects (NEOs).

Illustration of the orbit of asteroid 2018 GE3. Not this time, however a Chelyabinsk-type occasion can plainly duplicate.

A football-sized asteroid - labeled 2018 GE3 - buzzed by Earth on April 16, 2018. Traveling with a speed of around 106,000 kilometers per hour, this "Tunguska"- size asteroid was as far away from Earth as half the average distance between our planet and the Moon.

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