It was a close call in space! An asteroid with an estimated diameter of three football fields zoomed past Earth earlier this week but posed no threat. It travelled at some 27,000 miles an hour. The online Slooh Space Camera tracked the asteroid as it passed. Slooh, a robotic telescope service, routinely monitors potentially hazardous objects like asteroids and comets.
Monday’s asteroid known as 2000 EM26 comes one year after a meteorite exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The massive shock wave shattered windows and damaged buildings leaving at least 1,200 people injured.
“On a practical level, a previously unknown, undiscovered asteroid seems to hit our planet and cause damage or injury once a century or so, as we witnessed on June 20, 1908, and February 15, 2013,” said astronomer Bob Berman and Slooh host.
Berman also explained that every few centuries, an even more massive asteroid strikes the Earth but usually impacts an ocean or land such as Antarctica.
In an effort to increase awareness about the dangers of asteroids, Slooh recruits members of the public to help scan the skies with Slooh robotic telescopes. Sometimes the asteroids are discovered only days before they closely approach the Earth.
“We need to find them before they find us,” said Berman.
Asteroids mostly originate in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars. Although they rarely hit Earth, it can cause devastating damage if it does occur.
If you’d like to follow a calendar for asteroid arrivals, NASA’s “Near Earth Object Program” has a schedule here