An asteroid as big as a football field scraped by Earth early Sunday just hours after it was first spotted by a NASA-affiliated observatory in Arizona. So much for the vaunted asteroid early detection program.
What was described as a medium-size asteroid, from 157 to 361 feet in diameter, flew 119,500 miles from Earth at 66,174 miles per hour at 5:59 a.m. Eastern time Sunday, the website EarthSky.org reported. The moon, by comparison, is roughly 238,900 miles from Earth.
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, Time magazine reported.
The asteroid, named 2018 GE3, was from three to six times larger in diameter than the asteroid that broke through Earth's atmosphere in February 2013 and exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russian, EarthSky.org said.
That 10,000-ton meteorite shattered into thousands of small fragments that fell throughout the region, according to Time, injuring about 1,500 people and causing considerable damage.
SpaceWeather.com called 2018 GE3 a significant asteroid, being found less than a day before its closest approach to Earth, that might have caused regional damage had it hit earth or disintegrated in the atmosphere just before reaching the ground.
Based on the observational arc of 2018 GE3, SpaceWeather.com said, it appears to follow an elliptical orbit which stretches from the asteroid belt to inside the inner solar system. The asteroid crosses the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars every 2.5 years, although not necessarily making close approaches to those planets.
EarthSky.org said a preliminary analysis of the asteroid's orbit showed this was the closest 2018 GE has come to Earth since at least 1930.
So even if there's not a lot of advance warning, EarthSky.org said, Earth’s atmosphere does a pretty good job of protecting the planet from incoming asteroids, with most exploding high in the atmosphere, or over an ocean, doing little to no harm.
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