Two Asteroids Zipped by Earth Undetected Last Weekend
Two tiny asteroids sneaked safely past Earth last weekend, only to be discovered hours after they’d buzzed our planet. Asteroids 2018 NX and 2018 NW zipped past our blue-green orb at distances of just 72,000 miles and 76,000 miles, respectively. That’s about one-third of the distance from the Earth to the moon.
Scientists think the asteroids both stretched between about 16 feet and 50 feet in diameter. That’s relatively small for near-Earth asteroids.
Astronomers at an observatory on the Palomar Mountain range in California spotted both space rocks on Sunday, according to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.
Although they passed our planet in quick succession, the space rocks aren’t traveling as a pair. Asteroid 2018 NW raced toward our planet about five times faster than 2018 NX.
Even though astronomers didn’t know they were headed toward our planet, these small asteroids didn’t pose any risk to life because of their distance to Earth. They traveled relatively nearby but nowhere near close enough to penetrate our atmosphere.
Last month, however, a small asteroid did impact the gases swaddling our planet. Asteroid 2018 LA disintegrated in the atmosphere creating a fireball above Botswana, captured in the video below. Researchers found fragments of the rock in the country’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve, EarthSky reported.