Large Asteroid Skims Past Earth

How close did it come to hitting Earth?

The asteroid measured to be about a kilometre wide and came pretty close to Earth this morning. Five times the distance between the Earth and Moon to be exact. 

The asteroid with its catchy name ‘2014 JO25’ was captured by NASA’s 70 m antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California.

The images reveal a nut-looking rock rotating every five hours or so. The giant flying rock passed Earth at a distance of 1.8 million km.

Image: This composite of 30 images of asteroid 2014 JO25 was generated with radar data collected using NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar in California's Mojave Desert. NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

“This tells us how active space is - it's not static, we are so used to hearing astronomers describing objects as light years away. Close encounters with asteroids are things that happen on a real time scale.” said astronomer Brad Tucker.

The asteroid nicknamed “The Rock” after Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (or the Rock of Gibraltar depending who you talk to) is pretty large. If it came any closer to Earth there would be fatal consequences. Professor Tim Bedding Head of Physics at Sydney Uni explains:

"If an asteroid this size hit Earth, it would be catastrophic. If it hit an ocean, the tsunamis it would raise could wipe out coastal cities. If it hit land, it would be a different scenario but in both cases completely catastrophic."

According to the professor, it’s not the big ones we should be afraid of; it’s the small ones that will get us. The ones that travel fast and unnoticed such as the one that exploded over Russia three years ago.

The big asteroids are fairly easy to detect. Bedding explains the earlier you catch them, the earlier you can measure their orbit and potential to crash into Earth. And if there is a threat, there will be decades or years to do something about it. However, Dr Tucker explains something will hit Earth eventually.

“Yes, we are going to have something that hits the Earth eventually. That is inevitable. But the planet has been around for 4.5 billion years, and we only know of a few rare instances of very large impacts, so they are not common,” 

The next asteroid hurtling within crashing distance of our planet will pass in 2027. The rock, 1999 AN10 will be 800 metres wide and will fly by at one lunar distance. 

Keep your eyes on the skies but remember Earth will probably get hit by an asteroid eventually so don’t stress.

There’s nothing we can do about it…yet.

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