By Irene Klotz
AN ASTEROID the size of a small truck zoomed past Earth four times closer than the moon on Saturday, the latest in a parade of visiting celestial objects that has raised awareness of potentially hazardous impacts on the planet.
NASA said Asteroid 2013 LR6 was discovered about a day before its closest approach to Earth, which occurred at 12:42 a.m. EDT (0442 GMT on Saturday) about 65,000 miles (105,000 km) over the Southern Ocean, south of Tasmania, Australia.
The 30-foot-wide (10-metre-wide) asteroid posed no threat.
A week ago, the comparatively huge 1.7-mile-wide (2.7-km-wide) asteroid QE2, complete with its own moon in tow, passed 3.6 million miles (5.8 million km) from Earth.
While on Feb. 15, a small asteroid exploded in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, leaving more than 1,500 people injured by flying glass and debris. That same day, an unrelated asteroid passed just 17,200 miles (27,700 km) from Earth, closer than the networks of communication satellites that ring the planet.
“There is theoretically a collision possible between asteroids and planet Earth,” astronomer Gianluca Masi, with the Virtual Telescope project, said during a Google+ webcast that showed live images of the approaching asteroid.
NASA says it has found about 95 per cent of the large asteroids, those with diameters 0.65 miles (1 km) or larger, with orbits that take them relatively close to Earth.
An object of that size hit the planet about 65 million years ago in what is now Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, triggering a global climate change that is believed to be responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs and many other forms of life on Earth.
The US space agency and other research organizations, as well as private companies, are working on tracking smaller objects that fly near Earth. (Reuters)