NASA revealed that an asteroid about the size of a London bus passed only 12,000 miles from Earth, to be closer to the planet than most geostationary satellites.
The astronomers from the virtual telescope project explained that the asteroid, which was called 2021 GW4, did not pose any threat to Earth because it passed at a safe distance and was small enough to burn in the atmosphere if “dared and approached” more.
Astronomers said that on April 12 at 14:01 GMT, the space rock passed only 12,000 miles from the planet while moving at 18,700 miles per hour.
For comparison, the moon is located 238,000 miles from Earth, and geostationary satellites, including those that provide GPS services, are about 20,000 miles away.
This asteroid is roughly 10 meters wide, so not a big threat even if it were to hit us, which it won’t. https://t.co/skwEbllxxp
– Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) April 9, 2021
Arguably, the size of the rock makes it unlikely to cause any harm, as NASA estimates that at least one asteroid, up to three times the size of GW4, is burning in the atmosphere each year.
The US Space Agency estimates that a rock takes more than half a mile to cause global problems if it collides with Earth.
The asteroids are rock fragments left over from the formation of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago, most of which orbit between Mars and Jupiter.
From time to time, the orbital paths of asteroids are affected by the planets’ gravitational pull, causing their paths to change.
And when this happens it could bring it into a potential collision orbit with Earth or other planets, including one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
And NASA said: “Every day, the Earth is bombed with more than 100 tons of dust and particles the size of grains of sand, and an asteroid the size of a car hits the Earth’s atmosphere approximately once a year.” And when this happens, it creates a fireball, burns before reaching the surface, and causes no damage.
“Every two thousand years or so, a meteor the size of a soccer field hits the Earth and causes great damage in the area. And only once every few million years does an object large enough to threaten Earth’s civilization. Archaeological craters form on Earth, the moon, and objects,” NASA explained. “Other planetary events are evidence of these accidents. We believe that anything larger than 1 to 2 km can have global impacts.”