Yesterday, a high-rise-sized asteroid glided silently past the Earth, twice as near as the moon and we didn’t see it coming.
The Catalina Sky Survey first spotted the 10-storey (80-115 feet) tall space rock, now designated as 2017 AG13, late on Sunday. It was traveling at about 35,000 miles per hour.
During a hastily organized live broadcast of the fly-by yesterday, Eric Feldman, an expert with astronomy news website Slooh, said, “This is moving very quickly, very nearby to us.”
He said the asteroid was approximately similar in size with the one that exploded in the sky above Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013. The Chelyabinsk blast exploded windows and produced slight damage to buildings over a wide area. Flying glass and debris reportedly injured more than a thousand people.
He said 2017 AG13’s orbit will also take it through the path of Venus.
While you were hitting snooze, we nearly hit an asteroid! At 7:47 AM EST an asteroid we only first spotted Saturday gave us a wake up call. pic.twitter.com/BbAQc7e2EJ
— Slooh (@Slooh) January 9, 2017
The asteroid was about half the size designed to be detected by NEOCam, an infra-red telescope charting the sky for possibly destructive asteroids that have orbits traversing with Earth’s.
The program last week was given only limited funding from NASA to resume its search.
The White House last month issued a document delineating a Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy.
The policy document pursues to “improve our nation’s preparedness to address the hazard of near-Earth object (NEO) impacts by enhancing the integration of existing national and international assets and adding important capabilities that are currently lacking.”
In the case of 2017 AG13, the asteroid would possibly have shattered high in the atmosphere with the force of 700 kilotons. The Nagasaki atomic bomb was 20 kilotons.
The document admits that early warning remains to be an issue.
The Planetary Society deems that only 60 percent of near-Earth objects larger than 1 mile wide have hitherto been spotted. The amount of smaller objects is several times this.
The White House document says, however, that the possibilities of a “potentially hazardous” asteroid crash on Earth in the next 100 years is just 0.01 percent.
Approximately five new asteroids are being discovered every day.