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Space – “About once a year an asteroid approaches Earth” – News


The Earth suffered a near collision. An asteroid the size of a minibus flew past Earth during the night, near space standards. However, there was no danger on Earth, says one expert.

There was a distance of 3,600 kilometers between Earth and the asteroid. That’s about ten times closer than most television satellites orbiting Earth. Karl Urban is a science journalist specializing in space. assess the seriousness of this situation.

Karl Urban

Space expert

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Karl Urban Freelance science journalist and space expert.

SRF News: 3,600 kilometers, that sounds like a lot, but it’s fairly close to space. Was that dangerous?

No. If an asteroid the size of a minibus headed toward Earth, it would probably burn up in the atmosphere. Perhaps individual pieces will hit the ground. But these things are not likely to hit a home or a person. The chance of the object falling into the sea is greater.

An asteroid flying towards Earth.


An asteroid flying towards Earth. (Icon picture)

Imago / Sebastian Koletzky

Is it rare for an asteroid to approach Earth?

Objects of this size, between four and eight metres, probably get so close once a year that they also enter the atmosphere. The space agency’s monitoring programs can detect such objects before they enter. The said asteroid has already come close to Earth. However, in absolute terms, this is nothing special.

Despite the monitoring programs, this asteroid was discovered only a few days ago. Why was he not noticed much earlier?

Even these good NASA telescopes have problems, for example when there is a full moon or there are clouds. In addition, telescopes are only in one hemisphere, so they don’t see the entire sky that surrounds Earth.

More than 90 percent of the “civilization killers” are now known.

In addition, the number of satellites that can be mistaken for asteroids is increasing. So there are many disruptive factors and always blind spots in telescopes.

A hobby astronomer discovered the asteroid a few days ago. How unusual is this?

In this case, an astronomer in Crimea had a lot of experience. He discovered a few known asteroids before they flew past Earth. It’s an area where both professionals and amateurs grumble.

Could we miss a large asteroid due to blind spots in telescopes?

In recent years, astronomers have been trying to find these large objects, which are also called “civilization killers.” More than 90 percent of them are now known. This does not mean that there cannot be more surprises. But we don’t know of anything today that could come dangerously close to Earth in the next 100 years.

Small things are not a big deal, we mostly see the really big things. Intermediaries can be a problem. What can we do when we see a medium-sized asteroid coming our way?

If you now detect a larger and more dangerous object in the atmosphere a few days before it arrives, you can at most calculate where the asteroid will impact and warn the residents there.

If you had a longer lead, ideally in the range of months or years and decades, you could also send space probes there to warp the asteroid’s orbit. NASA ran such tests last year and they were very positive.

Vera Derajesh conducted the conversation.