Science

Gigantic Asteroid Barely Misses Earth, And We Had No Idea It Was Coming

A gigantic asteroid just whizzed by Earth without warning – barely missing our planet at a distance of just over 100000 miles.

100000 miles may seem like a large distance, but considering the huge swaths of outer space and how rapidly this gigantic asteroid could have changed course, it’s dangerously close to our planet – and we had no idea it was coming.  EarthSky reports that the asteroid was named 2018 GE3, and we noticed it just a few hours before it zoomed by on Sunday at just 119400 miles away – passing between our planet and the moon. The gigantic asteroid was around 100 meters wide, meaning that it could have caused some serious damage if it were to impact Earth. Scientists breathed a sigh of relief as it narrowly missed our planet, and while it was still a decent ways away from Earth, the fact that such a gigantic asteroid could go unnoticed until hours before a potential impact is definitely concerning.

Gigantic Asteroid
By Tomruen [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
While an astronomically small number of people have actually been hit by any sort of space debris, many are concerned that we don’t have a good way to keep an eye on space debris that may hit Earth – with potentially catastrophic impacts unable to be predicted in many cases outside of a few hours before impact. For a sense of scale, this gigantic asteroid was roughly six times larger than the object that exploded in the sky over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk back in 2013 – resulting in around 400 people injured due to shards of flying glass from windows that were shattered during the shockwave.

If this gigantic asteroid were to actually enter our atmosphere, there’s certainly a chance that it could reach Earth and cause some significant damage in that way. It would be far more likely, however, to explode in the sky with an airburst explosion magnitudes stronger than what we saw at Chelyabinsk – causing massive damage in a huge area underneath. Those directly under the shockwave would suffer significant injuries or death, and there could even be damage to our climate from such a strong impact. However, the gigantic asteroid – while certainly possessing the potential to cause some incredible damage – would probably not lead to any sort of extinction.

While talking about the impact of such a gigantic asteroid is all hypothetical at this point due to the fact that 2018 GE3 bypassed us completely, it’s worth taking the time to understand how such an impact would affect us if we weren’t so lucky as to avoid an impact entirely. With the knowledge that we have very little time to prepare for such an event due to the difficulty of detecting asteroids ahead of time with any sort of accuracy, multiple space agencies around the world are taking action to try to find an efficient way to deal with space debris.

For this reason, it’s important not to get too anxious about the potential for an asteroid impact. While it’s certainly concerning that we sometimes can’t tell whether a gigantic asteroid will come this close to our planet, we’re generally lucky enough to have such a space object burn up before it actually causes damage here on Earth. With very few incidences of actual damage from a huge asteroid, it’s unlikely we’ll see a significant problem in the future – especially with NASA and other agencies around the world taking steps to address the issue.

There are several ways in which space agencies are attempting to increase our ability to respond to potential catastrophes such as a gigantic asteroid headed towards Earth, and in the next few years, we should be better equipped to deal with such a situation. Until we have a system where we can either redirect or break up asteroids or other space debris, however, we’ll have to hope we have enough warning or that these objects follow the same trend as 2018 GE3 and bypass our planet entirely – even if that means a near-miss.

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