The Internet is abuzz with news about a large asteroid that zoomed past Earth on July 25, catching scientists by surprise. Though experts are tracking a large number of near-Earth objects, yesterday’s asteroid 2019 OK wasn’t one of them. Details about the event are rolling in and joining them is an animation that helps the public visualize just how close the asteroid came to our planet.
The asteroid has been named 2019 OK and, based on current estimates, it measured somewhere between 187ft and 426ft in diameter. The space rock zoomed past Earth at a very close distance, at least for space, coming within 45,000 miles of our planet. That’s closer to Earth than the Moon, making 2019 OK the largest known asteroid to come within one lunar distance of the planet, according to Watchers.news.
The asteroid was first spied by the SONEAR Observatory in Brazil on July 24, a single day before its flyby. NASA has since published a report on the asteroid, revealing that it has an Apollo classification and Watchers.news has published an animation showing the asteroid’s path through the space near us, including its very close flyby.
The asteroid was not a threat to Earth, but the lack of detection until only hours before its flyby caught officials by surprise, underscoring the importance of supporting near-Earth object monitoring missions. Generally speaking, these asteroids are a threat to Earth and can potentially cause serious damage to the planet if an impact happens.
Long ago in Earth’s past, a huge asteroid impact resulted in the extinction of dinosaurs. In more modern history — 2013, to be precise — a meteor over Chelyabinsk in Russia produced a massive explosion that shattered windows, damaged structures, and caused more than 1,000 injuries.