Tag Archives: Near Earth Object

Another rock will fly past the Earth today, killing no one.

Chicken Little report: Another rock will fly past the Earth today, killing no one.

The 33-foot-wide (10 meters) near-Earth asteroid 2014 EC will come within 34,550 miles (55,600 kilometers) of Earth’s surface this evening (March 6) — just 14 percent of the distance between our planet and the moon, which is about 239,000 miles (385,000 km) on average.

The key quote, however, is this:

Such back-to-back flybys are pretty special, though they can’t exactly be called rare events, [JPL scientist Don] Yeomans said. “For small asteroids, one would expect a flyby of the Earth, to within the moon’s distance, about every two weeks,” he said.

In other words, these flybys happen a lot, with no consequences.

A 100-foot diameter newly discovered asteroid will zip past the Earth inside the Moon’s orbit today at 4:07 pm Eastern.

Chicken Little report: A 100-foot diameter newly discovered asteroid will zip past the Earth inside the Moon’s orbit today at 4:07 pm Eastern.

The asteroid, dubbed 2014 DX 110, is about 100 feet in diameter and is set to come within 216,000 miles of Earth — a close shave by astronomical standards, considering our Moon orbits the Earth at a distance of about 238,900 miles.

While an object that size may not seem imposing, if it were to strike the Earth, it would release a devastating amount of energy greater than a nuclear weapon. The infamous asteroid that exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, on June 30, 1908, has been estimated to be about 30 meters to 60 meters — 100 feet to 200 feet — in diameter.

While it is true that the impact would be significant, this news report does the typical fear-mongering to make the story seem interesting. The problem, however, is that the detection of these fly-bys is becoming more frequent. The number of asteroids isn’t changing, but our ability to spot them is, and with more frequent discoveries comes more frequent news stories like this. I fear that such stories — fueled by press releases from various astronomy organizations — are going to begin to sound like a kid “crying wolf” to the general public. The threat from an asteroid impact is real, even if most asteroids miss us. Desensitizing the public to the threat is not a good thing.

A newly discovered half-mile wide asteroid has 1 in 63,000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2032.

A newly discovered half-mile wide asteroid has 1 in 63,000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2032.

That’s the Russian report above, which on these matters tend to be panic-stricken. Here’s the JPL version, which downplays the concern.