'Tunguska'-size asteroid 2018 GE3 gives Earth surprise flyby

Astronomers Say an Asteroid Snuck Up on Us and Almost Hit Earth Yesterday

Astronomers Say an Asteroid Snuck Up on Us and Almost Hit Earth Yesterday

NASA tracks asteroids that make close approaches to Earth, providing data on the distance and estimated diameter of each object.

That's nothing compared to asteroids that make up the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which can measure to about 580 miles across, NASA explains on its website.

Illustration of the orbit of asteroid 2018 GE3.

The April asteroid, however, traveling at a speed of about 66,000 miles per hour, would have likely broken down "due to friction with the air" as soon as it entered Earth's atmosphere, EarthSky reported.

This class of asteroids that includes 2018 GE3 is named after the 1908 Tunguska event, when a almost 200-foot-wide impactor leveled a Siberian forest, exploding with an estimated force equivalent to the largest hydrogen bombs ever built, between 15-30 megatons. A previously undetected asteroid the size of a football field just missed the Earth have the distance to the Moon, and no one saw it until the last minute. GE3 also passed close to the moon later that morning on its journey around the sun. There really is no telling, as mapping the impact trajectories of objects crashing down to Earth is notoriously hard, and scientists were left with just a few hours to scramble for this one. "Nevertheless, it is a significant asteroid, illustrating how even large space rocks can still take us by surprise". That's about three to six times wider than the space rock that penetrated the Earth's atmosphere in 2013 and exploded over the city of Chelyabinsk in Russian Federation, packing 20 to 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, notes EarthSky.

Was Earth in danger? If they can't, failing to detect an asteroid could happen again and it could come with devastating consequences next time. Astronomers at the NASA-sponsored program first locked eyes on 2018 GE3 on Saturday (April 14) at 5:23 a.m. EDT (09:23 GMT).

Although, asteroids are hard to track, it's rare for one to come so close to Earth without being picked up well in advance.

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