A never-before noticed asteroid the size of a bus made a close approach to Earth on Thursday passing within just 56,000 miles (90,000 kilometers).
The asteroid, named 2022 NF, passed safely by our planet at about 23 percent of the average distance between Earth and the Moon according to calculations by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Astronomers discovered the asteroid using data from the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS)—a system of cameras and telescopes based in Hawaii with the primary goal of detecting near-Earth objects, or NEOs.
On July 4th, researchers identified the object and calculated its approximate size and trajectory, estimating that the space rock measured between 18 and 41 feet wide (5.5 meters and 12.5 meters) at its longest dimension.
Because of its small size, 2022 NF does not fit NASA’s criteria for a “potentially hazardous asteroid,” which generally must measure at least 460 feet (140 meters) long and pass within 4.6 million miles (7.5 million km) of Earth, according to Space.com.
If a celestial body of this size crashed into Earth, it could destroy an entire city and cause extreme regional devastation. Larger objects at 0.6 miles (1 km) or more could have global effects and even cause mass extinctions.
A small asteroid hit the earth in March
In March 2022, a small asteroid struck the Earth above Iceland just two hours after it was first spotted by an astronomer.
The space rock, named 2022 EB5, is believed to have mostly burned up in our planet’s atmosphere, but even if it had impacted the surface, it would have done little to no damage because it was just 10 feet (3 meters) wide about half the size of a giraffe.
Some people in Iceland reported hearing a boom or seeing a flash of light around the time 2022 EB5 scooted across the sky at 11 miles per second (18.5 km/s) between Greenland and Norway.
When 2022 EB5 struck the Earth, it marked the fifth known instance of an asteroid being discovered prior to impact, astronomer Marian Rudnyk noted in a tweet.
Rudnyk added that this statistic highlights just how dangerous asteroids are and “how vulnerable we are.”
In an attempt to address this vulnerability, NASA recently conducted a simulated experiment to assess the impact of an asteroid smashing into Earth.