Asteroid as big as a warehouse is freakiest near miss in years

Astronomers Say an Asteroid Snuck Up on Us and Almost Hit Earth Yesterday

While it doesn't sound like a short distance, 2018 GE3 was twice as close to the Earth as the moon is, which has an average orbit of 238,900 miles away. You may have missed it though; humanity only learned of the asteroid hours before the flyby.

Based upon an observational arc of just 1 day, 2018 GE3 appears to follow an elliptical orbit which extends from the asteroid belt to deep inside the inner planetary system.

The asteroid, dubbed 2018 GE3, passed by Earth at 2:41 EDT Sunday morning and was estimated to be between 157 to 361 feet in diameter. "Hours later, amateur astronomer Michael Jäger of Weißenkirchen Austria video-recorded the space rock gliding through the southern constellation Serpens", Spaceweather.com reported. That's a little under half the distance between the Earth and the Moon. "It was shining like a 13th magnitude star at the time of my observations".

Had it entered the atmosphere, a great portion of the asteroid would have broken up, but some might have made it through to the Earth's surface, EarthSky says.

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That's significantly smaller than the 2018 GE3 asteroid.

This class of asteroids that includes 2018 GE3 is named after the 1908 Tunguska event, when a almost 200-foot-wide impactor leveled a Siberian forest, exploding with an estimated force equivalent to the largest hydrogen bombs ever built, between 15-30 megatons.

"2018 GE3 was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey approaching Earth on April 14th". Congress tasked NASA with tracking all objects bigger than 460 feet wide, which 2018 GE3 falls shy of, but NASA has only been able to identify about one-third of the estimated total so far. A more current point of comparison is the Chelyabinsk meteor- a ~ 20-meter asteroid that blew up in the environment over Russian Federation on February 15, 2013, shattering windows and falling observers as a fireball brighter than the sun progressed in the blue early morning Ural sky.

In 2020, NASA plans to give its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) a live trial.

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