Guys. Earth came thisclose to getting hit by an asteroid yesterday
You’re going to sleep so much better tonight knowing this! Orrrr maybe not. See, yesterday an asteroid came really close to making contact with Earth. And not like, just a little love tap either, but in a Deep Impact/Armageddon big, scary, KABOOM kind of way.
Don’t worry! We narrowly avoided a catastrophic event by a good 15 million miles, give or take. Phew.
On Saturday, asteroid 86666 (2000 FL10) safely passed by Earth. About once a week an asteroid passes by Earth, so this was nothing out of the ordinary. But 86666 was different from all other asteroids, since it was 1.2 km – 2.6 km wide (about a half a mile) and traveling VERY FAST at relative velocity of 16.29 km/s. I might have barely paid attention in my astronomy class freshman year of college — much to my surprise, it wasn’t just lying out on the quad dreamily looking up at the night sky — but I do know that a big, fast asteroid is NOT anything we want anywhere near our planet.
Thankfully, asteroid 86666 wasn’t on any sort of crash course and passed by Earth a good 15 million miles away. As a reference point, the Moon is just shy of 300,000 miles away. So, 15 million miles is a LOT, and it might not seem like a close call for us, but for NASA, that’s a pretty close call.
NASA’s own Asteroid Watch, run out of the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena (aka, where basically all the Earth scenes in The Martian take place) shared the good news on Twitter, explaining that asteroid 86666 posed no immediate threat. No need to send Bruce Willis up into space to save the day!
As of right now, there are no other current big asteroid threats out there in Earth’s immediate vicinity, so sleep easy tonight. Or don’t, knowing that space is a very big place and there could be other asteroids out there in the cosmos quickly hurtling themselves towards us at an alarming rate! Actually, NASA has a list of those, and they’re called Potentially Hazardous Asteroids, and there are currently 1618 known PHAs, so…
How about we keep Bruce Willis on deck, just in case.
Image via Pixar