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An asteroid around the size of a ten storey building came incredibly close to striking the Earth in the past week, researchers at the University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey have revealed. While the asteroid passed the Earth without incident, the sudden appearance of this object has left experts reeling because it was only spotted on Saturday evening.
NASA didn’t see it coming
Eric Feldman, an astronomer with Slooh, said that the asteroid was incredibly large, and moving at a speed of approximately 9.9 miles a second. He said that it was ‘roughly the same size as the asteroid that struck Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013.’ This would seem to indicate that if the asteroid had struck the Earth that there would have been a replication of the Chelyabinsk disaster which resulted in more than a thousand people requiring medical attention.
Asteroids coming into proximity to the planet Earth is not a rare occurrence, said Mark Sykes, the director, and CEO of the Planetary Science Institute. In fact, it is believed that there will be at least thirty-eight ‘close approaches’ of the Earth by asteroids and other space objects in the month of January alone. However, the frequency of this kind of event is of little comfort to those who have expressed alarm at the perceived complacency of global space organizations when it comes to preparing for one of these asteroids to make an impact with the Earth.
Experts within NASA and outside of the organization have been fairly critical of the lack of preparation for dealing with potentially catastrophic asteroid impacts on the Earth. It is claimed that the protocol for dealing with this kind of eventuality is minimal and at this current moment in time, the space agency may not be able to react quickly enough to prevent the kind of catastrophic impact that precipitated the K-10 event that wiped out the dinosaurs. The fact that this asteroid was not even picked up by NASA’s trackers until it was in the immediate proximity of the planet suggests that these fears were well founded.
Image: Hubble ESA/Flickr
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