Really Close Call: Earth Missed An Asteroid Collision By 119,500 Miles

First Posted: Jan 13, 2017 03:10 AM EST

An asteroid though small just buzzed past Earth. The asteroid that was officially named as 2017 AG13, made its way between Earth and the Moon at about 8 a.m. EST last Monday at about 119,500 miles from the Earth's surface.

Experts say the asteroid was not big enough to destroy the planet even if it would have actually made collision with it. It was around 50 to 111 feet wide and was traveling at about 10 miles per second. The asteroid was non-circular in shape and it had a peculiar "stretched out" shape, just like a rubber band, Smithsonian reported.

Interestingly, even though numerous astronomers across the world are keeping a close watch on the celestial activities near Earth, the said asteroid was not detected till Saturday. Experts say the asteroid was dim and was traveling really fast so that it could not be spotted earlier. It was first spotted by the researchers at Catalina Sky Survey, University of Arizona.

Eric Edelman, astronomer at Slooh Observatory, said the 2017 AG13 was an Aten asteroid, which means that it has the relative orbital distance from the Sun similar to that of Earth. The asteroid has an elliptical orbit and crosses the orbits of Venus and Earth while orbiting around the Sun, Time reported.

"What makes it unique is sort of how close by it was to us at that point," Edelman said.

This is the second near miss of a possible asteroid collision following the February 2013 event in which a passing space rock exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, while entering the Earth's atmosphere. Astronomer Deborah Byrd of EarthSky Observatory said that the space object exploded 12 miles above the Earth's surface and released enormous amount of energy, which was about 30 times the total energy released from the Hiroshima nuclear bomb.

Though no or minor damage has been reported in these cases, the matter of concern lies in the fact that even after several observatories and space missions launched by NASA to study asteroids, the 2017 AG13 remained inconspicuous till it reached so close to Earth.

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