Did you hear that wooshing sound on Monday morning? That was the sound of asteroid 2017 AG13 as it buzzed us Top Gun-style at 7:47 a.m. eastern time. It’s okay if you missed it – you’re not the only one.
The asteroid blew by our planet around 126,000 miles away, or about half the distance to the moon. Astronomers, however, didn’t catch the rock until just a few days earlier. Moving at ten miles per second in the dark of space, it wasn’t until Saturday that researchers at University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey spotted it.
Slooh Observatory offered up a bit of information on the rock. 2017 AG13 was somewhere between 36- and 111-feet across, putting it in the same class as the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. That meteor damaged thousands of buildings and injured more than 1,500 people. NASA researchers estimated that explosion to be about 30 times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb. An impact from 2017 AG13 wouldn’t have been an extinction-level event, but there’s no doubt it would’ve caused plenty of damage and pain if it made landfall.
Smithsonian Magazine notes that the dangers of potential impacts are being given more attention by NASA. The organization is already using probes to study known objects, and it established a Planetary Defense Coordination Office (which will be super important when the aliens finally reveal themselves), which has a $50 million annual budget to search for potentially dangerous rocks.
The chances of a rock that could actually do real damage hitting us in the next 100 years is 0.01 percent, but spotting asteroids allows us to monitor them and study them. The idea of mining an asteroid has been played with in science fiction before, and, hey, we have to start somewhere, right?