On Sunday (April 15), a football field asteroid buzzed by Earth. Astronomers call it 2018 GE3 and it’s one of the largest asteroids to pass that close to Earth.
2018 GE3, made its closest approach to Earth at around 2:41 a.m. EDT (0641 GMT). At its closest point, the giant object was just 119,500 miles away from Earth’s atmosphere. That is about half the distance between Earth and the moon, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).
NASA estimated that this asteroid measures 157 to 360 feet (48 to110 meters) wide. But compared to the objects that make up the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, this size is nothing. Asteroids there can measure to about 580 miles across.Those asteroids, however, pose no threat to Earth.
What if the asteroid had hit Earth?
Its possible 2018 GE3 could have even burned up in the atmosphere before ever reaching our planet. But if it had hit the Earth, the giant object would have caused a regional destruction instead of a global one.
Catalina Sky Survey discovered 2018 GE3. But it was Austrian amateur astronomer Michael Jäger that recorded the object as it passed through the southern constellations Serpens.
However, mapping the impact trajectories of objects crashing down to Earth is very difficult. So, that’s why the asteroid was discovered just one day before it skimmed past Earth.
“Nevertheless, it is a significant asteroid, illustrating how even large space rocks can still take us by surprise. 2018 GE3 was found less than a day before its closest approach,” SpaceWeather.com reported.
2018 GE3 is part of a class of asteroids named after the 1908 Tunguska event when a nearly 200-foot-wide space rock leveled 500,000 acres (2,000 square kilometers) of a Siberian forest when it exploded over Tunguska in 1908. That object exploded with an estimated force equivalent to the largest hydrogen bombs ever built, between 15-30 megatons.
Another great comparison with the newfound asteroid is that of another asteroid that broke up over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013. 2018 GE3 is three to six times as big as that object which injured more than 1,200 people and damaged thousands of buildings up to 58 miles (93 km) away from the impact site.