By Saturday, nobody knew anything about the asteroid approaching Earth at about 100,000 kilometers per hour. Just 21 hours before the flyby at a distance of nearly 200,000 kilometers, the celestial body had been discovered by Nasa astronomers in Arizona. That’s about half of the distance from the earth to the moon, and at least it comes very close to cosmic scales.
Such short-term discoveries of previously unknown asteroids exist again and again. But 2018 GE3, like him now officially called , belongs to the comparatively large celestial bodies. In case of a collision with the earth, he could at least locally cause some damage.
The NASA figured its size at 50 to 100 meters. 2018 GE3 is likely to be larger than the asteroid that caused the Tunguska event in 1908. At that time, millions of trees had collapsed in Siberia after one or more explosions. Seismographs in Europe and North America register the shock.
NASA / JPL
Asteroid 2018 GE3 track
Asteroids are considered remnants of the formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. Most of them travel around the earth, far away from the earth, between the planets of Mars and Jupiter, but some can come dangerously close to the earth.
Dangerous ghost drivers
The last major impact in February 2013 was a huge explosion in Chelyabinsk, Russia when the asteroid broke apart at high altitude. The shock wave broke windows within a radius of tens of kilometers – about 1,500 people were injured. The Chelyabinsk asteroid was about 20 meters tall.
The potential damage of an impact depends on the size and nature of the asteroid. Smaller objects are almost pulverized when entering the atmosphere. With increasing size, the risk increases that a larger chunk creates it to the surface of the earth.
For example, 65 million years ago, an approximately 10-kilometer asteroid hit today’s Mexico. The crash released energy equivalent to millions of atomic bombs, soot and dust spread throughout the atmosphere worldwide, causing mass extinction. The most prominent victims are the dinosaurs.
Telescopes are used by astronomers to systematically capture asteroids and calculate their orbit data. According to NASA data have been so far Nearly 18,000 Near Earth asteroids discovered , About 1000 of them are larger than one kilometer, another 8000 larger than 140 meters. According to the data, however, the risk of impacts on Earth over the next 200 years is very small.
Video: How a natural disaster changed the world – asteroid impact