NASA has revealed that an asteroid flew by so close to Earth this week it was within the ring of satellites. The U.S. space agency also said that the rocky body was discovered just six hours before it made its close approach.
Flew By Inside Ring Of Geosynchronous Satellites
In a statement released on March 2, the Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS) of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory revealed that the small near-Earth object measuring less than 10 feet across safely passed Earth on Thursday, March 2 at a proximity so close it flew by inside the ring of geosynchronous satellites, which orbit the Earth 22,300 miles above the surface.
At its closest approach, asteroid 2017 EA was 20 times closer than the moon. It eventually moved into the daytime sky and can no longer be observed using ground-based telescopes.
"Designated 2017 EA, the asteroid made its closest approach to Earth at 6:04 a.m. PST (9:04 a.m. EST / 14:04 UTC) at an altitude of only 14,500 kilometers (9,000 miles) above the eastern Pacific Ocean," the statement read.
Detected 6 Hours Before Closest Approach
The celestial body was first detected just six hours before it made its closest approach by astronomers working at the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey. Scientists observed the object using several other observatories before its closest approach.
The asteroid was only tracked for one day but researchers now know its orbit quite accurately. Computations made by researchers at CNEOS show that the asteroid will not get this close to Earth again for at least a hundred years.
Monitoring Near-Earth Objects
CNEOS computes high-precision orbits for near-Earth objects such as asteroids and comets to predict close approach of NEOs to Earth. Its Sentry impact monitoring system conducts long-term analyses of possible future orbits of potentially hazardous celestial bodies to search for possibilities of impact over the next century.
Not Earth's First Close Brush With An Asteroid This Year
The close flyby is not the first to happen this year. In January, NASA revealed that an asteroid about the same size as the Chelyabinsk meteor that struck Russia in 2013 flew by Earth at a distance equivalent to about half of the distance between the moon and our planet. Astronomers discovered the space rock dubbed 2017 AG3 two days before it flew by.
Earth had another close shave with a previously undetected space rock that month. Asteroid 2017 BX passed by at a proximity 30 percent closer to our planet than the moon. The bus-sized space rock was detected just two days before it flew by.
Likelihood Of Dangerous Asteroids Colliding With Earth
Reports of a close brush with asteroids may raise public concern since space objects colliding with Earth may potentially cause damaging consequences. The meteor blast over Chelyabinsk, for instance, hurt more than 1,000 people.
Scientists, however, claim that most of the big asteroids that are likely to cause global catastrophe when they hit Earth have already been discovered and the likelihood of these dangerous celestial bodies colliding with the planet over the next 100 years is just less than 0.01 percent.