Asteroid shaves Earth, more on the way

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Asteroid Vesta resembles a planet, data from Nasa has showed. (Nasa, AP)
Asteroid Vesta resembles a planet, data from Nasa has showed. (Nasa, AP)
Cape Town - An asteroid dashed close by the Earth on Sunday, but experts were watching it to ensure that it stayed on the predicted course.

On Sunday, the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory watched as an asteroid, dubbed 2014 BP8, whizzed by the planet at 9.3km/s (kilometres per second).

The asteroid is between 11m and 24m in diameter and passed 1.4 million kilometres, or just under four lunar distances from the Earth.

According to the JPL, Tuesday will bring the closest approach of 2014 BM25 which is travelling at 6.8km/s and between 6m and 14m in diameter.

It will pass even closer than 2014 BP8, at 2.7 lunar distances, and followed by the bigger 19m 2014 BK25, at 11.9km/s on the same day.

Catastrophic damage

Nasa and other space agencies have accelerated their NEO (Near Earth Object) observation capability in an effort to quickly map the orbit of the objects which could cause catastrophic damage should they impact the planet.

The agency recently activated its Wise (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) programme (NEOWISE) which in just 25 days of operation, discovered 857 bodies in our solar system.

While some were known, the programme discovered three new objects hundreds of metres in diameter.

The European Space Agency recently set up the NEO (Near-Earth Object) Co-ordination Centre located at Italy. The facility will monitor objects that could threaten the Earth and is part of the European Space Research Institute.

While asteroid 2014 BP8 missed the Earth it is concerning that it was only first observed on 23 January 2014, indicating that a small percentage of NEOs that could potentially collide with the planet are well analysed.

Should an asteroid more than 10m in diameter enter the Earth's atmosphere, it could create a brilliant fireball and cause a sonic boom, similar to the Chelyabinsk meteor of 2013.


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This YouTube video demonstrates the impact of a large asteroid on Earth.
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