This month, the sky has been full of activity. We’ve seen comets, meteor showers, and asteroids streak by Earth so far. This morning, a huge asteroid came close to Earth. However, it seems to have moved on into space without incident.
According to The Sun, NASA named the huge asteroid 2017 AE3 and said it would fly close to Earth. The “close approach” object came within 1.9 million miles of our planet. To many, that doesn’t seem very close. However, when it comes to space “close” becomes a relative term. For instance, NASA labels anything that comes within 120 million miles of Earth a “Near-Earth Object.” Every year, scientists track thousands of NEOs, but most people have no idea that they even exist.
Asteroid That Flew Past Earth Was Huge, Potentially Hazardous
More than just being considered close to Earth, this huge asteroid was also considered potentially hazardous. Cautious space organizations give this distinction to any fast-moving object that flies within 4.65 million miles of Earth. So, 2017 AE3 was well within the parameters to receive the frightening moniker.
The distinction makes sense. If something caused one of those objects to change course, it could be disastrous for the people of Earth. For instance, the huge asteroid that came close to Earth this morning was traveling at about 47,000 miles per hour. At that speed, the asteroid wouldn’t have to be massive to do a considerable amount of damage.
The asteroid that zipped close to Earth this morning is huge. The rock that is currently hurtling through space is about 853 feet wide. That makes it larger than Seattle’s Space Needle (604 feet) and the Washington Monument (555 feet). Thankfully, the asteroid cruised past our planet without incident.
A Month Packed with Celestial Activity
Stargazers saw a strong finish to 2021. December brought us the Ursid Meteor Shower. Those meteors were visible around Christmas. At the same time, the Geminid Meteor Shower was lighting up a different section of the sky.
Also, this morning’s asteroid wasn’t the only huge object to get close to Earth. Earlier this month, Comet Leonard zipped around the planet. Leonard was the brightest comet of the year and was visible during the holiday weekend. In fact, it was on the southwestern horizon just after sunset on Christmas Day.
The massive asteroid is gone and the meteor showers are over. However, Comet Leonard is still in the sky. According to a Twitter account dedicated to tracking the comet, Leonard is slowly moving away from Earth. Earlier today, it was visible near the Microscopium constellation. Unfortunately, that constellation is best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere. So, Americans may not be able to see Leonard anymore.
Next year is right around the corner and so are several more thrilling celestial bodies.