Earth just survived a near miss with an asteroid, and we didn’t even know it was coming. Around 1,500 people were injured in the aftermath of the Chelyabinsk meteorite when it exploded over Russia in 2013, and an even larger asteroid just buzzed incredibly close to Earth this weekend, according to EarthSky. The Catalina Sky Survey first observed the asteroid – which is the closest large one on record to pass by the planet – just hours before it tumbled past us at about half the distance of the moon.
Asteroid 2018 GE3, according to EarthSky, was around 119,500 miles away from our planet at its closest point — and the Moon is an average of 238,855 miles away. Its diameter was around 157 to 361 feet, and it was hurtling through space at around 66,174 miles per hour. Asteroid 2018 GE3 surprised us, as did the Chelyabinsk meteorite.
The Catalina Sky Survey detected the asteroid on Saturday, April 14, and in the early hours of the morning on April 15 on the United States’ East Coast, Asteroid 2018 GE3 passed by our planet. The closest approach happened at around 2:41 AM EDT, according to EarthSky. They cited NASA as saying the asteroid passed closer to our Moon than it did to Earth a few hours later at around 5:59 AM EDT. A preliminary analysis of Asteroid 2018 GE3’s orbit reveals this pass is the closest this asteroid has flown by our planet since around 1930.
Was the planet in danger? No, not this time, according to EarthSky. What might have happened if Asteroid 2018 GE3 had indeed hit Earth? The publication said a big portion of rock would have broken up into pieces if it had entered our atmosphere, but some might have made it through to the surface. “…an asteroid this big is capable of causing some regional damage, depending on various factors such as composition, speed, entry angle, and location of impact,” EarthSky said. “It might make you feel better (or worse) to know that asteroids enter Earth’s atmosphere unnoticed on a fairly regular basis.”