Giant asteroid 2018 GE3 makes surprise fly-by past Earth

Getty    
   WARNING An asteroid bigger than the Eiffel Tower is to fly past Earth today

Getty WARNING An asteroid bigger than the Eiffel Tower is to fly past Earth today

With little warning, a relatively large asteroid flew through the Earth-Moon system on April 15th only 192,200 km (0.5 LD) from our planet. You may have missed it though; humanity only learned of the asteroid hours before the flyby.

The asteroid, named Asteroid 2018 GE3, was closest to Earth at around 2.41 a.m. ET on April 15 when it was spotted about 119,500 miles away, EarthSky.org reports.

The asteroid was first observed by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey project, based at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab in Tucson, Arizona.

That's significantly smaller than the 2018 GE3 asteroid. Austrian amateur astronomer Michael Jäger recorded the object as it passed through the southern constellations Serprens. 2018 GE3 could be 5 to 6 times wider than that object. "It was shining like a 13th magnitude star at the time of my observations".

Getty    
     DANGER If the asteroid hit the Earth it would have a devastating impact
Getty DANGER If the asteroid hit the Earth it would have a devastating impact

While rare at that size, asteroids more than a quarter-mile wide are capable of causing a disaster on the global scale. There really is no telling, as mapping the impact trajectories of objects crashing down to Earth is notoriously hard, and scientists were left with just a few hours to scramble for this one.

Space.com said 2018 GE3 was up to 3.6 times the size of the space rock that levelled 2000sq km of Siberian forest when it exploded over Siberia in June 1908.

For comparison, the Chelyabinsk meteorite that hit Russian Federation in February 2013 was about three to six times smaller in diameter, yet its explosion in the atmosphere damaged over 7,000 buildings and injured some 1,500 people due to shattered glass.

Last week, Sputnik reported that NASA is scrambling to track 17,000 big near-Earth objects (NEOs), including asteroids. "A 10-meter size object already packs the same energy as a nuclear bomb". DART theoretically works by plunging into an asteroid and knocking it off its collision course.

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