Four asteroids buzzed by Earth in just seven days in the latest demonstration that we live in an active solar system correctly dubbed a “cosmic shooting gallery” by some scientists.
The biggest asteroid to buzz by this time passed by Earth about 2.5 times the distance between our planet and the moon. Early estimates put 2013 ET at about 460 feet wide, about the same size as the average city block.
Later reports put the size of the asteroid at a more reasonable 131 feet wide. Still, if it had impacted Earth, asteroid 2013 ET could have destroyed an entire city.
The space rock was discovered on March 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona and passed by just six days later. Patrick Paolucci, president of the online Slooh Space Camera, stated, “The scary part about this one, of course, is that it’s something we didn’t even know about.”
On the same day, a much smaller asteroid also buzzed by Earth. This one, called 2013 EC20, was discovered on March 7 and was about 23 feet across. It flew by less than half the distance between our planet and the moon.
The two other asteroids that flew by last week were 2013 EC (39 feet) and 2013 EN20 (23 feet). 2013 EC was discovered on March 2 and passed by two days later. Finally, Asteroid 2013 EN20 passed by on March 10, three days after it was discovered.
The prevalence of Near Earth Objects like the four asteroids that flew by Earth last week may worry some, but astronomer Michael Busch of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory stated that asteroids like 2013 ET routinely pass by the Earth every few days. Sightings by amateur astronomers are helpful because they allow follow-up observations to pinpoint their exact orbit.
Roughly 100 tons of material also routinely rains down on the atmosphere every day, though most of it is just dust. Unfortunately, an asteroid measuring 55-feet-wide exploded over Russia and injured about 1,200 people. That asteroid was not detected before impact. Despite this, we should not be worried. The majority of asteroids, like the four that flew by Earth in the last week, do so without incident.
[Image via ShutterStock]