Just two days before its near-terminal graze of Earth’s upper atmosphere last week, astronomers discovered the presence and precarious trajectory of Asteroid 2016 RB1.
By Bred Bergan | MOTHERBOARD
Its course brought it to within 24,000 miles of sea level on September 7—close enough to endanger communication satellites—as it whizzed by at more than 18,000 mph.
Astronomers first spotted the 13-46 foot wide asteroid with Mount Lemmon Survey’s 60-inch Cassegrin telescope at the University of Arizona. It was later reconfirmed by Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy. Naturally, a space-faring body the size of a bus or trailer is too small to see with the naked eye from the ground, but thankfully Masi had the means on hand to create an animation of the asteroid’s motion.
After plotting its trajectory, we could only watch with pallid faces as the asteroid passed within 2,000 miles of the kind of satellites responsible for loading and reloading this very webpage, or awaiting the data stream from your next phone call. But don’t fret.