By Elton Gomes
An asteroid the size of the Statue of Liberty narrowly missed the Earth on Tuesday. The asteroid was named 2010 WC9 and was at a distance of 1,26,419 miles from the Earth – about half the distance from the Earth to the moon.
The asteroid passed the Earth around 6 PM on Tuesday. The asteroid 2010 WC9 was initially identified in 2010, but it later vanished into space, Patrick Taylor, a scientist, told Business Insider.
The space rock was moving at a speed of 29,000 miles per hour. It was reported to have a diameter of 60 to 134 metres.
Although the naked eye will not be able to see the asteroid, science enthusiasts and others might be able to watch the asteroid make its way past the Earth.
Here’s what happened
Several instances have been reported in the past whereby asteroids have whizzed past the Earth. However, till date, no asteroid has collided with our planet. On April 17, an asteroid the size of a football field came unnervingly close to Earth. The asteroid was travelling at 1,06,000 kilometres per hour and was as far from the Earth as half of the average distance between the Earth and the Moon. This distance was considered as being extremely close to the Earth.
In a record-breaking encounter, a mountain-sized asteroid flew by the Earth in September 2017. The roughly 4.4 kilometre-wide asteroid – named 3122 Florence – came within 4.4 million miles of the Earth, which approximately equates to 18 times the distance from the Earth to the moon. “Nothing this big has passed this close to Earth since we’ve been tracking,” Paul Chodas, a manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told Space.com. “This is a once-in-40-year-event kind of thing.”
A gargantuan asteroid larger than the Burj Khalifa was reported to fly by the Earth in January 2018. NASA stated that the asteroid will whizz past Earth at a distance of 2.6 million miles, which is considered a “hair’s width” in astronomical terms.
In 2018 so far a total of 17 huge asteroids have been noted to have passed relatively close to Earth. Asteroid 2018 DU passed by the Earth in February 2018, and is known to have come closer to us than the Moon.
Why is this important
As asteroids continue to whizz past the Earth, are we in imminent danger of a collision? Prior to estimating whether asteroids colliding with Earth is a reality, an even bigger question is whether we are prepared.
A report in the Daily Mail does not leave a lot of hope for humans. The report mentions that although an asteroid-Earth collision might be rare, it only is a matter of time before this becomes a reality. However, experts have warned that humans are not prepared for impact, and that little can be done in the event of an asteroid crashing on Earth.
In the advent of technology, it can be said that scientists have discovered ways to identify asteroids before they have devastating effects on Earth.
Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, says, “It is important to know that scientists and engineers have made great strides in detecting Near-Earth Asteroids and understanding the threat posed by them. Over 1,800 potentially hazardous objects have been discovered so far, but there are many more waiting to be found,” Phys.org reported.
Fitzsimmons went on to say that asteroids may be harmless, but that does not mean that scientists should be lax about them. Every possible measure should be available in the event of a potentially dangerous asteroid.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius