A GIANT asteroid discovered by radars only one month ago flew past the Earth in the early morning hours, NASA has revealed.
The asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2019 AG3, made a so-called “Earth Close Approach” today. NASA’s scientists at the California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have tracked the asteroid down to a 2.18am GMT (UTC) flyby. The startling revelation comes just one month after the rogue asteroid was first spotted by radars on December 12, 2018. NASA did not expect the space rock to hit the Earth anytime soon but the asteroid’s imposing size was a good enough reason to track it.
The JPL estimates Asteroid AG3 measures somewhere in the range of 210ft to 459.3ft (64m to 140m) in diameter.
An asteroid this big is about twice the wingspan of a Boeing 747 aeroplane.
Asteroids measuring 460ft (140m) across are considered “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids” (PHAs) if they approach the Earth close enough.
The largest known PHA is the gargantuan Apollo asteroid which is believed to measure roughly 4.3 miles in diameter (7km).
A NASA report on asteroid dangers reads: “Larger Near-Earth Objects greater than 140 meters have the potential to inflict severe damage to entire regions or continents.
“Such objects would strike Earth with a minimum energy of over 60 megatons of TNT, which is more than the most powerful nuclear device ever tested.
“Fortunately, these are far less common and are easier to detect and track than smaller Near-Earth Objects.
“After almost two decades of search, NASA and its partners have catalogued about one third of the estimated 25,000 NEAs that are at least 140 meters.”
Thankfully, Asteroid AG3 missed the Earth by more than three million miles (4.9 million km).
NASA believes AG3 approached our home world today from a distance of approximately 0.03303 astronomical units (au).
One astronomical unit measures approximately 93 million miles (149.6 million km) – the distance from Earth to the Sun.
Asteroid AG3 drastically cut this distance down to just 3.07 million miles (4.9 million km) today.
This is the equivalent of 12.86 Lunar Distances (LD) or 12.86-times the distance from Earth to the Moon.
In human terms, this may seem to be incredibly far, but on the cosmic scale of distances, this is a close brush with the space rock.
NASA said: “As they orbit the Sun, Near-Earth Objects can occasionally approach close to Earth.
“Note that a ‘close’ passage astronomically can be very far away in human terms: millions or even tens of millions of kilometres.”
And as the asteroid flew by, the space rock reached breakneck speeds of more than 32,700mph or 14.62km per second.
Article courtesy of Sebastian Kettley / Express UK