At 2 AM on Sunday morning (AEST time) astronomers at the Steward Observatory Catalina Station in Arizona spotted an asteroid hurtling towards Earth at 106,497 km/h.
Julian Morgans | MOTHERBOARD
Called 2018 GE3, it was estimated to be up to 110 meters in diameter, which is the same length as an average FIFA soccer field. Scientists quickly calculated that it would pass us the following day, but only just. And actually 2018 GE3 would turn out to be the largest known asteroid to ever drift so close to Earth, and this particular rock’s first visit since 1930.
The next day it tore past without incident, brushing within 192,317 km of our upper atmosphere. And sure, that sounds like a healthy margin for error, but keep in mind that space is infinite and the moon is just 400,000 kilometers away.
So what would have happened if it’d hit us? Well, as a fun game of comparative speculation, the meteorite that exploded over remote forest in Russia in 1908, known as the the Tunguska event, is thought to have been between 60 to 190 meters in diameter. It didn’t kill anyone, but that’s only because the area was basically unpopulated. And it did flatten about 200 kilometers of pine trees.