An asteroid about the size of a school bus passed between the earth and moon on Friday, just a few days after it was discovered for the first time. This asteroid event is considered as one of the closest passes to earth ever and is sparking“doomsday” concerns today. This wasn’t a science fiction movie plot, the asteroid was very real and the late discovery of this mass of only a few days notice raises concerns about future asteroids in and around the path of the earth.
This mass was not as big as some of the modern day space rocks to pass by earth. The asteroid that passed near the earth in November was the size of an aircraft carrier and was classified as “Potentially Hazardous Object.” Wednesday’s asteroid was much smaller and probably would have burned up entering into the earth’s atmosphere. It wasn’t labeled potentially hazardous because it was so small.
The problem isn’t the size, but the short amount of time between the scientists first discovering Wednesday’s asteroid and the time it passed near earth that’s raising concerns today. Wednesday’s near passing made it into the top 20 of the closest approaches to the earth. It’s the closest since June 2011 when another space rock came just a bit closer to the earth.
While the science fiction movies have done a number on the population’s mental images of a doomsday scenario with asteroids involved, this latest space rock was never a threat to the earth. While many more asteroids will come toward the planet, with some even being in the direct path of the earth, it’s not a doomsday scenario that will most likely happen.
It’s all been mapped out in the movies like “Asteroid” (1997) or “Deep Impact” (1998), which is why many people to pay attention to what NASA calls “potentially hazardous objects.”
Connecticut’s Yale University planetary scientist, David Rabinowitz, estimates that asteroids the size of YU55, the asteroid that came near earth in November, “come this close to the Earth about once every 100 years, and one this large hits the Earth only every few 100,000 years.” The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was at least 25 times bigger than the one that came close to earth in November.
While the smaller asteroids greatly outnumber the larger ones, if one should hit earth the impact would be damaging in the immediate area around the impact. With the earth’s surface covered by 75% water, this is usually where they end up.
While the asteroids are out there, it doesn’t mean that they’re an immense threat to the earth. It might seem this way because society’s a victim of the movies when it comes to these events, but realistically it’s not.
The movies visualized the doomsday scenario and when someone hears that a space rock is headed this way, one of the first scenes that pop into mind is one that’s catastrophic. Not that this isn’t a possibility, but a very slim one at best.
Reference: BBC News, Huliq, CNN