Football field-sized asteroid zooms dangerously close to Earth

Representational image Asteroid 2018 GE3 entered into the Earth's orbit and was more closer than Moon

An asteroid the size of a football field buzzed by Earth Sunday in one of the closest encounters the planet has seen in a while.

2018 GE3, about 4 times larger than the meteorite that fell in Russian Federation in 2013, passed between the Earth and the Moon.

The last time a giant asteroid swept by within half the lunar distance was in 2002, reports CNET, when asteroid 2002 MN missed Earth by just 120,000 kilometers (74,564 miles) on June 14.

The asteroid, 2018 GE3, flew by just hours later. However, the simple fact that the Earth only had mere hours after detection of the asteroid paints a disturbing picture.

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Space.com said 2018 GE3 was up to 3.6 times the size of the space rock that levelled 2000sq km of Siberian forest when it exploded over Siberia in June 1908.

The asteroid "2018 GE3", which was slightly larger than the one that exploded over Tunguska in Siberia in 1908, flattening 2,000 square kilometers of forest, passed at a distance of 192,300 kilometers, nearly half the distance of the Moon from Earth, according to the US Space Agency (NASA). Since 2001, at least two other instances of asteroids coming dangerously close to Earth have occurred and those space rocks were much bigger than 2018 GE3. But according to Andrew Rader, a researcher and engineer at SpaceX, 2018 GE3 is "vast enough to destroy a city". The estimated diameter of the space rock ranged from 131 to 328 feet, CNEOS reports. That's about three to six times wider than the space rock that penetrated the Earth's atmosphere in 2013 and exploded over the city of Chelyabinsk in Russian Federation, packing 20 to 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, notes EarthSky.

The asteroid would have likely disintegrated as soon as it entered Earth's atmosphere due to the 66,000 miles per hour speed it was traveling and the "friction with the air", EarthSky reported. Astronomers have increased their programs to seek near-Earth asteroids like 2018 GE3, but sometimes - like this time and as in 2013 with the Chelyabinsk event - asteroids do still surprise us.

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