AN ASTEROID bigger than the Empire State Building flew by Earth on Sunday.
The US space agency Nasa shared that Asteroid 388945 (2008 TZ3) passed Earth at around 5.18pm ET and 9.18pm GMT.
The giant space rock was predicted to be up to 1,608 feet wide. By comparison, New York's Empire State Building stands at 1,454 feet tall.
Although Asteroid 388945 passed from a distance of about 3.5million miles away, it was still considered a possible threat.
If an asteroid comes within 4.65million miles of our planet and is over a certain size, it's considered "potentially hazardous" by cautious space agencies.
Read our Asteroid 388945 2008 TZ3 live blog for the latest news and updates…
Even small asteroids can be dangerous, continued
Around 1,600 people were injured when that asteroid exploded, mostly as a result of broken glass from windows, according to NASA as cited by Newsweek.
The agency’s planetary defense officer Lindley Johnson said it was a “cosmic wake-up call.”
Even small asteroids can be dangerous
In February 2013, an asteroid that NASA previously described as “house-sized,” so relatively small next to Asteroid 2015 DR215, exploded in the skies, Newsweek noted.
It exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk after it entered Earth’s atmosphere at around 40,000 miles per hour, and released a shock wave that obliterated windows over 200 square miles when it exploded.
Asteroid mystery solved, continued
New findings published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters suggest Ryugu is, in fact, the remains of a dead or extinguished comet.
The new theory involves the comet losing its ice content in a way that could have ended up with it having the “unique characteristics” it does.
Lead author Miura told Newsweek: “Depending on whether Ryugu was originally an asteroid or a comet, it experienced a very different environment.”
“Asteroids formed in warm regions relatively close to the sun. On the other hand, comets formed in a cooler environment away from the sun.”
“To assume off the top of one’s head that Ryugu was originally an asteroid is to overlook the possibility that Ryugu may have been in a cold environment.”
Asteroid mystery solved?
Researchers may have “solved mysteries surrounding the origins of the spinning top-shaped asteroid Ryugu,” Newsweek reported.
In fact, it may actually be the remnants of a dead comet.
Space mission Hayabusa2 returned samples and images from the space rock Asteroid 162173, also known as Ryugu, in 2020.
It is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Objects Studies.
Data from that mission showed that the asteroid has a “spinning top shape,” and that it is “a loose pile of gravitationally bound rubble” with plentiful organic material.
What is an exoplanet?
Exoplanets are planets outside of our Solar System. Thousands have been discovered since the 1980s.
In addition to being possible locations of extraterrestrial life, they provide opportunities to better understand the evolution of the universe.
According to Nasa’s exoplanet database, of the ten exoplanets found this year, six are larger than Jupiter.
What would happen if an asteroid hit Earth?
Depending on the size of the space rock, an asteroid impact on the Earth could be an extinction-level event, and researchers have created simulations to see just how bad it could be.
Not all asteroids would mean the end of humanity and, in fact, a space rock would have to be pretty large to kill us all.
If an asteroid the size of the one that likely killed the dinosaurs hit Earth today, things would instantly change due to the force of the impact and its knock-on effect on the environment.
Largest asteroids: Interamnia
Interamnia has a diameter of 217.5 miles and circles the sun once every 1,950 days, or 5.34 years.
Because of its distance from Earth, it is not believed feasible to investigate Interamnia.
Largest asteroids: Hygeia
With a diameter of 270 miles, Hygiea is ranked fourth-largest.
It is a large asteroid in the main belt, but due to its almost spherical form, it may soon be classified as a dwarf planet.
It will be the tiniest dwarf planet in our solar system if it achieves this status.
The asteroid was discovered in 1849 by astronomer Annibale de Gasparis.
Hygiea’s orbit does not bring it close to Earth, hence it is not considered potentially dangerous.
Largest asteroids: Pallas
It has a diameter of around 318 miles and accounts for about 7 percent of the asteroid belt’s total mass.
Pallas’ orbit, unlike those of other asteroids, is severely inclined at 34.8 degrees, making it difficult to analyze.
Largest asteroids: Vesta
Vesta is the second-largest asteroid in the main asteroid belt and the biggest official asteroid.
Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers discovered it in 1807.
Vesta has a diameter of 329 miles and makes up nearly 9 percent of the total mass of all asteroids.
Vesta, like Earth, is spherical and has three layers: crust, mantle, and core.
Largest asteroids: Ceres
Ceres is the biggest asteroid in the belt between Mars and Jupiter and was the first found in 1801, even thought to be a planet at the time.
In the 1850s, it was categorized as an asteroid, but in 2006, it was reclassified as a dwarf planet.
While it is no longer classified as an asteroid, it claims the top rank with a diameter of 580 miles.
Ceres is named after the Roman goddess of corn and harvests, and the term cereal comes from the same root.
Ceres took 1,682 Earth days, or 4.6 years, to complete one round around the sun.
Every nine hours, it completes one rotation around its axis.
Largest known asteroids
The largest asteroids in our solar system are chunks of space debris that have shaped the space around them.
This is a list of six of the largest known asteroids:
- Ceres (583.7 miles/ 939.4 kilometers)
- Vesta (326 miles/ 525 kilometers)
- Pallas (318 miles/ 513 kilometers)
- Hygiea (270 miles/ 444 kilometers)
- Interamnia (196.7 miles/ 306 kilometers)
- 52 Europa (188.9 miles/ 306 kilometers)
What is a meteorite?
If a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it begins to vaporize and becomes a meteor.
On Earth, it’ll look like a streak of light in the sky, because the rock is burning up, and it may look like a fireball or “shooting star.”
If a meteoroid doesn’t vaporize completely and survives the trip through Earth’s atmosphere, however, it can land on Earth and becomes a meteorite.
Difference between asteroids, meteors, and comets, part three
Like asteroids, a comet orbits the Sun.
However, rather than being made mostly of rock, a comet contains lots of ice and gas, which can result in amazing tails forming behind them as a result of the ice and dust vaporizing.
“They range from a few miles to tens of miles wide, but as they orbit closer to the Sun, they heat up and spew gases and dust into a glowing head that can be larger than a planet,” Nasa reported.
Difference between asteroids, meteors, and comets, continued
When two asteroids hit each other, the small chunks that break off are called meteoroids.
“Meteoroids are objects in space that range in size from dust grains to small asteroids. Think of them as ‘space rocks,’” Nasa reported.
Difference between asteroids, meteors, and comets
An asteroid is a small rocky body that orbits the Sun.
They are “rocky, airless remnants left over from the early formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago,” Nasa reveals.
Most are found in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter).
But they can be found anywhere, including in a path that can impact Earth.
Nasa monitors thousands of asteroids
Nasa has its eye on nearly 28,000 known near-Earth asteroids, and discoveries of new asteroids are said to go up by their thousands each year.
On that note, Nasa is hoping to launch its Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor mission in 2026.
Giant asteroids could be spotted early
Giant asteroids that could potentially endanger the Earth can be spotted thanks to a special system.
The Scout monitoring system, a small piece of technology the size of a shoebox, may be able to save the earth from catastrophic disasters.
Using new “Scout” monitoring technologies, scientists were able to spot an asteroid heading toward earth on March 11, and accurately predict its patterns.
Plans to save Earth, continued
Nasa said: “DART is the first-ever mission dedicated to investigating and demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection by changing an asteroid’s motion in space through kinetic impact.”
The DART craft should slam into a small asteroid called Dimorphos in September with the aim of moving it off course.
Plans to save Earth from an asteroid
Some experts are worried that Earth isn’t yet ready to defend itself from potentially deadly asteroids.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk once sparked concern by tweeting: “a big rock will hit Earth eventually & we currently have no defense.”
Nasa is looking into some defence methods though.
It recently launched its Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission.
What is the current asteroid count?
According to NASA, the current known asteroid count is 1,113,527.
Nasa is hoping to launch its Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor mission in 2026.
If the agency does so, it will finally have a spacecraft dedicated only to hunting asteroids.
It’s hoped that the NEO Surveyor craft will find 90 percent of asteroids that are 460 feet or larger within the first decade of its mission.
Youngest asteroids ever found in Solar System
Researchers have found a pair of asteroids orbiting the Sun that were formed under 300 years ago.
Details of the Astronomical discovery were published in a report in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
“It’s very exciting to find such a young asteroid pair that was formed only about 300 years ago, which was like this morning – not even yesterday – in astronomical timescales,” astronomer Petr Fatka of the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences said.
Asteroid 388945 2008 TZ3’s return
This asteroid is due to fly past Earth again in May 2024 but from much further away, at 6.9million miles.
The next time it’ll come anywhere near as close as it will this weekend won’t be until May 2163.
Has this asteroid passed Earth before?
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this asteroid – it’s actually passed us before with no problem.
Last time it paid Earth a visit was in May 2020 and then it came even closer, flying past at 1.7million miles away.
It gives Earth a wave about every two years, as it circles around the Sun just as our planet does.
Sunday's fly-by is the closest we'll see the asteroid come for the rest of our lifetime.