A couple million miles may not sound like much of a “close call” with an asteroid.
But compare it to the vast and empty light years upon light years surrounding this oxygenated rock ball we ride around on in infinite space, and 1.6 million miles isn’t much wiggle room between us and a structure racing past at 27,000 miles per hour.
At three football fields in diameter, this near-miss is exactly what the asteroid 2000 EM26 did when it whizzed by Earth during the witching hours Tuesday morning.
Unfortunately, the Canary Islands based robotic telescope service that was meant to photograph the asteroid malfunctioned. At the climactic moment, the equipment froze over and couldn’t capture 2000 EM26 (which means that super cool above image isn’t the actual behemoth sky boulder – sorry ’bout it).
“We continue to discover these potentially hazardous asteroids – sometimes only days before they make their close approaches to Earth,” said Paul Cox, technical and research director of Slooh – which tracks potentially hazardous objects in space.
Cox went on to say, “Slooh’s asteroid research campaign is gathering momentum with Slooh members using the Slooh robotic telescopes to monitor this huge population of potentially hazardous space rocks.
Bob Berman, a Slooh astronomer, added: “On a practical level, a previously unknown, undiscovered asteroid seems to hit our planet and cause damage or injury once a century or so, as we witnessed on June 20, 1908, and February 15, 2013.”
The latter date Berman is referring to is, of course, Russia’s meteor encounter from roughly a year ago:
Despite its smaller length of 65 feet, that rock still managed some damage. When it exploded over Chelyabink, it reportedly did so with the power of about 20 atomic bombs. The blast shattered glass, leaving more than 1,500 with injuries – and even more with concerns about our sitting-duck status against astral assailants.
Although 2000 EM26 posed no planetary threat upon its passing, Cox stresses that the search for celestial threats is ongoing:
“We need to find them before they find us!”
Image via Youtube