Three Asteroids Missed Earth Today… Just.

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One of the Three Asteroids Came Closer Than the Moon

Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck can rest easy. Though, three asteroids – big ones – flew very closely past Earth’s orbit Wednesday. The asteroids, which are named 2019 OD, 2019 OE, and 2015 HM10 (in order of the proximity in which they passed) all missed. Take that, cosmic odds! The closest of the three was a mere 222,164 miles from the earth’s surface. The moon is over 16,000 miles further away than that at 233,900. The other two were around 600,000 and nearly three million miles away, respectively. Those last numbers may seem a lot farther away, but they’re still relatively close, in the cosmic sense.

For means of comparison, let’s look at the distance to some other “nearby” objects. We’ve already mentioned the closest one – the moon. 600,000 miles, well, that’s only 2.3% of the way to the next closest planet, Venus. When it’s on our side of the sun, Venus comes within about 26,000,000 miles of us. Which means 2015 HM10 was about 11% of that distance from us.

How Close Was It, Really?

Well, NASA never classified any of these three asteroids as a threat. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t close, though. What I mean is that we only found the closest of the three, 2019 OD, three weeks ago. At almost four hundred feet across, and moving at nearly 43,000 miles per hour, a collision wouldn’t necessarily have been an extinction event, but it would have caused a significant amount of damage wherever it hit.

The asteroid thought to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs is thought to have been at least six miles in diameter. On the other hand, the meteor that hit over Russia in 2013 exploded with 33 times more power than the first atomic bomb. And it was much smaller than 2019 OD.  

Detection is Key

While the really big asteroids are certainly scary, they are a lot easier to detect. Currently, researchers at the University of Hawaii are shouldering a lot of that work. They use two telescope systems that are 100 miles apart to track things heading toward earth. The systems, named ATLAS and Pan-STARRS, coordinate data with other telescope and radar systems at research institutions around the globe. Researchers operating these detection systems have proven that their technology works well enough to give ample warning to populated areas if an object is detected. They can detect smaller asteroids around 12 hours before impact, and can pick up larger ones days out. 


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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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