NASA Detected an Asteroid the Size of One of the Giza Pyramids Just Two Weeks Before It Passed 'Close to' Earth

  • The asteroid, named 2024 MK, is as large as a soccer stadium.

  • If it had collided with Earth, the resulting explosion would’ve been close to a gigaton in power.

  • NASA actively monitors and detects new asteroids, but the risk of a catastrophic collision is very low.

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NASA estimates that the likelihood of an asteroid causing civilization-ending damage, as depicted in the 1998 movie Armageddon, is once every few million years. However, the space agency remains vigilant about potential threats from these relatively small rocky bodies. In fact, it recently discovered a new asteroid named 2024 MK that passed close to Earth.

There’s a new asteroid in town. On June 16, the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) station in Sutherland, South Africa, discovered a new asteroid. It was called 2024 MK, and NASA reported that it was approximately the size of a stadium.

This past Saturday, 2024 MK passed within 180,000 miles of Earth. The Virtual Telescope Project, a YouTube channel that periodically streams astronomical events live, also broadcasted the asteroid’s trajectory. In addition, some fortunate individuals were able to spot it with the naked eye or using small telescopes.

A worrying size. The Chelyabinsk superbolide, which crashed in Siberia in 2013, had a diameter of about 59 feet. Despite its relatively small size, its entry into the atmosphere released the energy equivalent of 30 Hiroshima bombs. On the other hand, the 2024 MK asteroid was between 500 and 800 meters in width. If it had collided with Earth, the resulting explosion would’ve been 10 to 20 times more powerful than the majority of hydrogen bombs.

It wouldn’t have been apocalyptic, but it would’ve been devastating. Experts, such as Peter Brown from Western University in London, suggested that the impact could have approached the power of a gigaton, equivalent to one billion tons of TNT. He further explained that if this asteroid had hit the East Coast, it would’ve had “catastrophic effects over most of the eastern seaboard.” Nonetheless, he clarified that the asteroid wasn’t large enough to “affect the whole world.”

Two are worse than one. Just recently, a second asteroid came relatively close to our planet. We’re talking about 2011 UL21, which came particularly close on Thursday and was about the size of Mount Everest. With a diameter of about 1.6 miles, the asteroid was about a quarter of the size of the one that hit the Earth 65 million years ago. Fortunately, it passed even farther away than 2024 MK–4.1 million miles separated Earth from it when it came “close” –and there was no chance of it colliding with our planet.

No Armageddon for (at least) 1,000 years. It’s certainly necessary to keep an eye on these asteroids, but the likelihood of them getting humankind into trouble is very low. A recent study indicated that the possibility of asteroids with a diameter close to 1 kilometer (or 0.62 miles) impacting Earth is very low. According to study co-author Oscar Fuentes-Muñoz, research assistant at the University of Colorado Boulder, we shouldn't have to worry for a very long time.

“As far as we know, there’s no impact in the next 1,000 years," he said.

The “small ones” are still a concern. However, NASA is tracking a large number of potentially lethal asteroids that, upon collision, could destroy entire cities. The space agency has been putting together a “map” of these asteroids for years, but 60% of these potentially dangerous asteroids haven’t yet been detected.

Image | NASA

Related | An Object That Fell From the Sky Made a Hole in a House With Someone Inside. The Family Is Suing NASA

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