This Asteroid Nearly Went Clobberin' Time on Earth & Hardly Anyone Noticed


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Actually, it didn't really, but it was the sixth-closest grazing ever recorded and a helluva lot closer than Asteroid 2012 LZ1 came earlier this month.

In video recorded last month by NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, which you can see below, the Asteroid 2012 KT42 likely wouldn't have yielded much damage had it even been on a collision course with our pale blue dot of a planet. According to Richard Binzel, an MIT planetary scientist who spoke to Nature, the asteroid would have incinerated in the Earth's atmosphere before it could bring about some Deep Impact-style destruction.

As things go, Asteroid 2012 KT42 was definitely the closest near-hit that Earth has been party to this year and yet it seems to have received much less attention than two much-hyped asteroids from earlier this year. As mentioned, Asteroid 2012 LZ1 passed through Earth's neighborhood last month and, despite being much, much further away than KT42, received much more attention from the pedestrian community, although that may have been in part to the asteroid passing at the same time that the transit of Venus was happening.

Asteroid 2012 KT42 was also much closer than the dreaded Asteroid 2012 DA14, which was greatly exaggerated to be on course to smash into Earth around February 2013. For some reason, DA14 seemed to earn the most attention, but then again it was, to my incomplete knowledge, the first big asteroid story of the year.

To put humanity's death-by-celestial object levels of concern into perspective, compare the three scenarios:

Asteroid Distance from Earth (km) Chance of Deep Impact Terror
2012 KT42 19,000 So close, yet so far away.
2012 DA14 27,000 Don't count on it.
2012 LZ1 5,300,000 My sources say no.

So really, the general public really has no sensibilities when it comes to panicking over one astroid's would-be imminent collision with Earth over another. In the meantime, keep calm, carry on, and enjoy the indisputably amazing video of KT42 zipping past stars at over 10 miles per second.

[Via Nature.]