Think you’re safe from an asteroid colliding with the Earth because scientists would know years in advance and could attempt to divert or obliterate the space rock like in your favorite science fiction movie? Think again. An asteroid large enough to decimate an entire city hurtled frighteningly close to Earth and scientists had no idea it was headed towards our planet until only days before the flyby.
Asteroid 2019 OK zoomed towards the Earth at an unimaginable 15 miles per second. On Thursday, Asteroid 2019 OK soared within 43,500 miles of Earth. In the cosmic scheme of things, 43,500 miles is insanely close.
Two astronomy teams in Brazil and the United States had only detected the scary asteroid days earlier and announced the news hours before the flyby. Scientists called Asteroid 2019 OK a “city-killer.” The asteroid, which is between 187 and 426 feet in size, “would have hit with over 30 times the energy of the atomic blast at Hiroshima” according to astronomy professor Alan Duffy.
“It would have gone off like a very large nuclear weapon” with enough force to destroy a city according to Duffy. “Many megatons, perhaps in the ballpark of 10 megatons of TNT, so something not to be messed with.”
Astronomer Michael Brown said the asteroid came “out of nowhere.” The reason why astronomers were surprised by Asteroid 2019 OK is because the celestial body made its approach from the direction of the sun, making it difficult to spot.
“This is one of the closest approaches to Earth by an asteroid that we know of. And it’s a pretty large one,” Brown, who is an associate professor at Monash University’s school of physics and astronomy, told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s impressively close. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet,” Brown said. “It’s a pretty big deal.”
Asteroid 2019 OK is the largest rock to pass by Earth this year, and possibly even this decade.
There are 20,000 near-Earth asteroids. The last
The Chelyabinsk meteor, which was only 66 feet wide, caused 1,500 injuries as it burst into flames while entering the atmosphere over Russia in February 2013.
Maybe we need a space force to train for approaching asteroids that could potentially end us.
In other asteroid news, Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft landed on an asteroid this week.