By Elton Gomes
In what appears to be a close call, a giant asteroid flew by very close to Earth, and scientists were unaware about it till the last minute. Named 2018 GE3, it measured up to 361 feet in diameter the asteroid made its closest approach to Earth at 12.11 am on April 16 (IST).
The asteroid reportedly flew at a distance of 1,92,000 kilometres from the Earth. Scientists say that it passed by just a day after it was discovered, as asteroids are dark and usually difficult to spot.
The asteroid was first spotted by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey, a Nasa programme based at the University of Arizona in the United States, 21 hours before it came closest to the Earth.
Here’s what happened
Way back in 1908, on June 30, an explosion was reported near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, in Russia. The alleged asteroid that hit Russia is believed to have been between 50 to 100 metres wide, and it flattened approximately 80 million trees in the surrounding forest area.
Scientists have said that the cause of the attack was likely a comet or an asteroid; however, little evidence has been found to suggest anything concrete.
According to Space.com, the 2018 GE3 was similar to the alleged asteroid that hit Russia in 1908. In February 2013, media sources reported that a small asteroid had broken up in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Although it was small, the ensuing blast was stronger than a nuclear explosion. The shock wave produced by the blast shattered glass and injured approximately 1,200 people.
Why you should care
As the asteroid flew by close to Earth, there were possibilities that it could’ve hit the planet, however, experts believe there was no imminent danger.
“If 2018 GE3 had hit Earth, it would have caused regional, not global, damage, and might have disintegrated in the atmosphere before reaching the ground,” as reported by Space.com.
Scientists have been constantly taking about the potentially hazardous effects of asteroids passing by Earth.
Recently, in January 2018, NASA stated that an asteroid measuring between 20 and 60 feet long will pass within 1.1 million miles of Earth. Although the asteroid was not expected to hit Earth, it was the second largest rock to fly by this close in the past few weeks.
Scientists have estimated that every 500 years, a Tunguska-sized asteroid will strike Earth.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield said that there aren’t many chances that asteroids will hit the Earth. However, we need to be fully prepared for the consequences. “[An asteroid strike] is a low probability but extremely high consequence event. So, it shouldn’t be our highest priority but it should be on our list,” Hadfield told the Guardian.
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