A couple of days ago, astronomers in Brazil discovered Asteroid 2016QA2, a celestial body of a diameter of around 55 meters (180ft). It was a close call, and just a day before the celestial body zoomed by within 80,000km of Earth researchers managed to detect it. Imagine if it were an asteroid of a greater size? And that its course was slightly deviated by Earthy gravity, the outcome ay have been disastrous. The Asteroid which passed less than a quarter of the distance between the Earth and the moon was a celestial body that no one saw coming.
Just before the asteroid flew past Earth, Astronomers at the Sonear observatory in Brazil discovered the rock estimating its size to be between 80 and 180 feet wide (25 and 55 metres).
Remember the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013, smashing windows and injuring more than 1,000 people?
Well, scientists estimate the upper end of the range would have made it far larger and more disastrous.
Scientists estimate that the Chelyabinsk asteroid was the second most powerful natural explosion in recorded history, disintegrating and exploding in a fireball caused by atmospheric friction at 67,600 kmh high above Siberia on February 15, 2013.
Some researchers estimate that asteroid QA2 which nearly missed Earth was about the same size as the meteor that caused the 1908 Tunguska event, which felled millions of trees across an area of 2150 square kilometers.
An eyewitness who was thrown from his chair by the heat blast nearly 100 kilometers from the site of the explosion recalled the 1908 Tunguska event:
‘Suddenly in the north sky…the sky was split in two, and high above the forest the whole northern part of the sky appeared covered with fire,’
‘At that moment there was a bang in the sky and a mighty crash…The crash was followed by a noise like stones falling from the sky, or of guns firing. The earth trembled.’
But… what can we do in order to be SAFE?
So far, we have set into position a sophisticated network of telescopes that are ‘trained’ to watch the sky for potential threats that may come within striking distance of Earth.
Researchers believe that the majority of the near-Earth Objects (NEOs) possess little threat to our planet, but nevertheless, astronomers will continue on the inner solar system, watching for potential threats that could cause a disastrous outcome if one of such bodies impacted earth.
While asteroid 2016 QA2 would have caused significant damage on a large scale, it isn’t an asteroid that could wipe out civilization.
A global killer is the space rock that created the Chicxulub crater in Yucatan, Mexico. Researchers believe that this celestial body is responsible for the extinction of the Dinosaurs. It was a massive celestial body with a diameter of 10 km.
Space.com reports that we need to be looking out for asteroids with a diameter larger than one kilometer since these are potential doomsday asteroids.