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Close Call: Giant Asteroid Flies Through the Earth-Moon Orbit

17 April 2018

Reports suggest that the the asteroid was as close to planet Earth as half the average distance between the Earth and the Moon. Austrian amateur astronomer Michael Jäger recorded the object as it passed through the southern constellations Serprens.

The April asteroid, however, traveling at a speed of about 66,000 miles per hour, would have likely broken down "due to friction with the air" as soon as it entered Earth's atmosphere, EarthSky reported.

EarthSky reported the asteroid, labelled 2018 GE3, came within about 192,300 kilometres of Earth at its closest point at 6.41pm on Sunday.

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NASA has estimated that the asteroid is somewhere between 47 to 100 meters wide, meaning it is roughly 3.6 times the size of the one that cleared 2,000 square kilometers of the forest when it exploded over Russia's Tunguska region in Siberia in 1908.

The safety of our planet, however, was jeopardized over the weekend when scientists nearly failed to detect a football field-sized asteroid heading towards Earth.

A medium-sized asteroid buzzed by Earth just hours after being detected this weekend.

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NASA estimates that the passerby visitor had a diameter of 48 to 110 meters, that is, three to six times as large as the other asteroid in 2013 that exploded over Chelyabinsk in Russian Federation, injuring more than 1,200 people and causing damage to buildings up to 93 km. But according to Andrew Rader, a researcher and engineer at SpaceX, 2018 GE3 is "vast enough to destroy a city".

"An asteroid this big is capable of causing some regional damage, depending on various factors such as composition, speed, entry angle, and location of impact".

An asteroid came alarmingly close to striking the Earth on April 15, just hours after the large space rock was spotted flying through the solar system. "2018 GE3 was found less than a day before its closest approach", said the report.

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Although, asteroids are hard to track, it's rare for one to come so close to Earth without being picked up well in advance.

Close Call: Giant Asteroid Flies Through the Earth-Moon Orbit