Tonight, one year after a surprise asteroid exploded over Russia, an asteroid three times the size of a football field will come close to the Earth. Tonight’s asteroid, designated 2000 EM26, will come within a near, but safe, 8.8 lunar distances. A lunar distance is approximately 238,000 miles, making the “close call” about 2,094,400 miles away.
Regardless, this is considered a near-Earth object and scientists will be keeping a close eye on it. You can keep an eye on this asteroid as well, with live coverage beginning tonight at 9 p.m. EST. The live feed is hosted by the Slooth Space Camera and can be viewed down below this article.
Oddly, just one year ago on February 15, 2013, another asteroid took scientists by surprise. The people in Chelyabinsk, Russia were both extremely unlucky and extraordinarily lucky. While scientists were keeping an eye on near-Earth object 2012 DA14, an unexpected asteroid exploded in the skies above Chelyabinsk. The unforeseen asteroid, a mere 65 feet in diameter, released energy equal to about 20 atomic bombs. The town suffered from shockwave damages which caused such things as breaking windows, resulting in numerous injuries. Additionally, about two dozen people suffered from burns directly related to the burst. The ultraviolet light from the exploding asteroid was so intense, it caused skin burns severe enough to require medical attention. Luckily, there was no reported loss of life from this event.
As the unanticipated explosion was occurring in Russia, scientists were keeping a close eye on another asteroid, 2012 DA14. This asteroid, one-sixth the size of the asteroid hurtling past Earth tonight, came within 18,000 miles of Earth. This asteroid was closer to us than the moon. Thankfully, asteroid 2012 DA14 did not impact with us. While it passed very close by, the asteroid was not big enough to cause any differences in tides and certainly did not cause any major events such as earthquakes or volcanoes. Had 2012 DA14 hit Earth instead of just passing close by, it would have caused damage comparable to approximately 2.5 megatons of TNT.
Tonight, the asteroid that will be passing by is about six times the size of last year’s near miss. The impact problems from an asteroid of this size would be significant. Thankfully, we do not need to worry about 2000 EM26 hitting our planet as the closest it will get to us will be about eight times farther away than the moon. The asteroid is hurtling by at about 27,000 miles per hour.
You won’t have to worry about trying to track this speedy chunk of space-rock because scientists will be doing that for you. You can view this fly-by online from the comfort and convenience of your living room. And because 2000 EM26 won’t be hitting us, come tomorrow, you’ll still have a living room from which to view future near-Earth objects that scientists are certain to discover.
When will the next asteroid hit us? Hopefully this will not happen any time soon. And just as hopefully, we won’t be repeating last year events when a universal sleight-of-hand dealt us the impact of one asteroid as we watched another fly by. Perhaps it is all fate, predetermined by some cosmic force. Who knows? It’s all just in our stars.
By Dee Mueller