Published: Sat, July 27, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Astronomers: Undetected 'City-Killer' Asteroid Barely Missed Earth

Astronomers: Undetected 'City-Killer' Asteroid Barely Missed Earth

NASA estimates it has already found over 90 percent of near-Earth objects measuring one kilometer or larger - which would have catastrophic global effects in the event of a collision.

As it approached Earth, the asteroid was traveling at about 15 miles per second, he said.

Astronomers generally track asteroids further in advance, but this one was hard to pick up because it was traveling from the direction of the sun.

The asteroid, which was estimated to be between 187 feet and 427 feet in diameter, was discovered this week by two astronomy teams in Brazil and the United States - and confirmed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. This is one of the best known photographs of an asteroid, in this case, taken from only 3,200 miles above the surface.

"It's impressively close. I don't think it's quite sunk in yet".

"It snuck up on us pretty quickly", Michael Brown, an observational astronomer in Melbourne, told The Washington Post.

Experts suggested it would hit with some 30 times the power of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

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A NASA diagram shows how close Asteroid 2019 OK came within hitting the Earth today.

Lastly, asteroid 2019 OE came to within 601,000 miles of Earth.

Smaller asteroids like 2019 OK are hard to detect, unlike the almost 90 percent of asteroids that are a kilometer are larger.

Long ago in Earth's past, a huge asteroid impact resulted in the extinction of dinosaurs. Given that the pale blue dot of Earth is just 12,750km across, a small nudge to a big rock may be enough to avoid annihilation.

NASA is now working on methods of deflecting harmful asteroids, involving pushing the objects off their trajectory toward Earth in various ways. Three different asteroids had also passed by Earth last week, but none of them was as impressive or risky as 2019 OK. Dr Brown wrote on The Conversation website that more than 2,000 near-Earth asteroids were detected in 2017.

By the time of its closest approach, asteroid 2019 OK would have been bright enough in the sky to be seen with just a pair of binoculars, the astronomer says.

Granted we know about their existence and have time to act, "asteroid impacts are the only potentially preventable natural disasters", according to NASA.

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