If nothing else, this news should remind us of how vulnerable our planet is. Despite all our technology and surveillance, apparently no one saw this coming?
An asteroid the size of a whale narrowly missed Earth recently, and no one saw it until we would’ve been in its rear-view mirror.
2017 VL2 could have obliterated the Auckland CBD, but instead it whizzed by only 117,500km away – between here and the moon. It was travelling at 8.7km per second.
According to Purdue University’s Impact Earth calculator, it could have struck with the power of up to 220 kilotons of TNT – about 15 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II.
Another website shows how large the resulting crater would likely have been, had it hit Queen St.
NASA astronomers in Hawaii only spotted the asteroid on November 10 – the day after it passed us.
2017 VL2 was somewhere between 16 and 32 metres wide, and won’t pass by Earth again until 2125, according to the International Astronomical Union.
Next week, 3200 Patheon, a massive asteroid 5km across, will come within 3 million kilometres of Earth – it’s a big one, but its orbit is well-known and poses no risk to the planet.
The asteroid that is believed to have killed off the dinosaurs was about twice as wide as 3200 Patheon.
Keep a regular check on “listed” Near earth Asteroids here:
Near Earth Asteroids
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.
On December 9, 2017 there were 1869 potentially hazardous asteroids.