FOUR CLOSE CALLS in four weeks: Scientists wonder what's going on as four asteroids pass dangerously close to Earth
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Whoa, that's close! As the world worries about an asteroid due to pass Earth on February 25, a much closer shave is happening right now. Asteroid 2017 BS32 was discovered just days ago, and it will pass much closer, about two-thirds the distance between the Earth and Moon.
Asteroid BS32 is passing Earth now, in the fourth close call in four weeks.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) -- Just about every week this year, an asteroid has passed frightfully close to Earth. The fourth close call of 2017 is taking place today as a bus size asteroid, 2017 BS32, passes within two-thirds the distance between the Earth and Moon.
The close approach is still a miss, but it is a reminder that some of these smaller asteroids can come close to Earth and collide with little or no warning. We have no defenses against such asteroids.
Should one hit Earth, the damage it does would depend entirely on where it lands. If it lands out to sea, little damage would result. A small tsunami could occur, but it would be smaller than those caused by most earthquakes.
However, if the asteroid were to come down over or even on a city, thousands of people could be injured or killed.
In 2013 a similar sized asteroid entered the atmosphere and exploded near the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia. Over 1,100 people were injured by the airburst which shattered windows and knocked people to the ground. Millions of dollars in property damage had to be repaired during the freezing cold of the Russian winter. Fortunately, nobody was killed.
The largest asteroid to pass close to Earth this year was 2017 AG13, which was also discovered only days before. It was about the size of a ten-story building. Had that asteroid hit the planet, it would have been extremely destructive, no matter where it landed.
What's going on?
These close shaves reveal that Earth sits near the center of a cosmic shooting gallery, dominated by the Sun. The Sun is the actual target as everything in the Solar System falls inward towards it. However, as objects fall toward the Sun and enter orbit or get destroyed, they can also hit the Earth.
The greatest danger is from an object that loops around the Sun and approaches the Earth from the Sun. We cannot easily see anything coming at us out of the glare of the Sun, and therefore we'd have little or no warning. No time to intervene or to determine an impact point or evacuate. The last thing millions might see would be a brilliant flash of light in the sky.
NASA continues to monitor the sky for objects such as these and the agency is working on a solution to the problem, but any solution is decades away as the program is considered a low priority.
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