This Is The Asteroid That Didn’t Hit Us


All right, sure – there are a lot of asteroids that don’t hit us. And of course quite a few that do… Earth is impacted by around 100 tons of space debris every day (although that oft-stated estimate is still being researched.) But on March 10, 2015, a 12–28 meter asteroid dubbed 2015 ET cosmically “just missed us,” zipping past Earth at 0.3 lunar distances – 115,200 kilometers, or 71, 580 miles.*

The video above shows the passage of 2015 ET across the sky on the night of March 11–12, tracked on camera from the Crni Vrh Observatory in Slovenia. It’s a time-lapse video (the time is noted along the bottom) so the effect is really neat to watch the asteroid “racing along” in front of the stars… but then, it was traveling a relative 12.4 km/second!

UPDATE 3/14: As it turns out the object in the video above is not 2015 ET; it is a still-undesignated NEO. (My original source had noted this incorrectly as well.) Regardless, it was an almost equally close pass not 24 hours after 2015 ET’s! Double tap. (ht to Gerald in the comments.) UPDATE #2: The designation for the object above is now 2015 EO6.

The description on the video reads:

The asteroid starts as tiny dot just below the centre of the right image and drifts gradually downwards. Due to a software glitch a correction which was meant to bring it back to the centre was not applied and the asteroid was subsequently lost. Nevertheless, the telescope kept tracking at the rate of the asteroid movement, just to illustrate the effect of sky motion. Towards the end, when the asteroid would be too faint again, the clouds rolled in and the observations were terminated. (Source: YouTube)

This subway-car-sized space rock didn’t impact Earth (obviously) on this trip around the Sun and won’t on any of its more distant passes during its 2.9-year orbit in the foreseeable future. And even if it had, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world – but we certainly would have known about it, especially if it had been over a populated area. Based on its size, even without knowing composition, I’m making an uneducated guess of a Chelyabinsk-sized impact event. That didn’t happen.

Learn more about 2015 ET’s parameters here, and see more night sky videos from the Crni Vrh Observatory here.

*Technically the time of closest approach for 2015 ET was 16:42 UTC on March 10.

Jason Major

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

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