On August 16th, a small asteroid, about the size of a truck, raced by at 1,830 miles from the earth’s surface at roughly 27,600 mph. That’s pretty close – closer than most asteroids that sweep by without making an impact.
As asteroids go, at 10 to 20 feet across, this one was too small to inflict damage on the earth’s surface. By contrast, the Chelyabinsk meteor of February 2013 was 66 feet across and came even closer. It entered the atmosphere over Russia and sent shockwaves that broke windows in six Russian cities.
We can feel better because the vast majority of small asteroids pass by safely at greater distances. Typically, they’re discovered only when they get very close to the earth’s surface and come from outer space. The real problem is detecting them when they come from the sun’s direction.
In that regard, Dave Mosher and Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported in Business Insider:
“NASA has a plan to address these gaps in its asteroid-hunting program. The agency is in the early stages of developing a space telescope that could detect asteroids and comets coming from the sun’s direction. NASA’s 2020 budget allotted nearly $36 million for that telescope, called the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission. If funding continues, it could launch as early as 2025.”
This raises a question about NASA’s priorities. Should the agency be asteroid chasers or more concerned about climate change?