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Nothing But The Facts About Asteroid Near Misses

written by: •edited by: RC Davison•updated: 7/16/2011

On November 6, 2009, a dark 7 meter wide asteroid was located just 15 hours from a near collision with Earth. A quick estimate of its trajectory showed it would pass within 14,000 kilometers but not impact our planet. It was a close call, but not the closest. Many asteroids threaten our planet.

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    The Facts

    Nearest approach by an asteroid since tracking began: Asteroid 2004 FU162—6150 km from surface

    Number of known asteroids crossing Earth’s orbit: 1090

    Number of times annually objects the size of 2009 VA skim past Earth: 2

    Number of times such objects hit Earth: Once every five years

    Largest known asteroid crossing Earth’s orbit: Toutatis—5 km long

    Distance of Toutatis’ approach: 960,000 miles

    Average interval at which moderate size asteroids (about 50 meters) impact Earth: 100 years

    Most recent impact: Asteroid 2008 TC3—about 2-5 meters long

    Location of 2008 TC3’s impact: Nubian desert

    Largest impact in historical times: Impact of a 220 million pound asteroid in Tunguska, Siberia in 1908

    Closest future approach: Asteroid Apophis, April 13, 2029, within 24,000 miles

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    Amazing Facts About Asteroid Near Misses

    Asteroid 2004 FU162 came so close to Earth that Earth’s gravity changed the asteroid's orbit by 20 degrees. It now will come closer to Venus than our planet.

    The Tunguska asteroid did not actually reach the ground, but exploded in a massive fireball about 28,000 feet above the ground. This is evidenced by the lack of impact evidence directly below ground zero, and the direction the trees were lying—some in one direction and some in the opposite direction.

    Asteroid 2008 TC3 also exploded in the atmosphere, breaking into many small meteorites, which were recovered in the Nubian desert. Thanks to modern technology and satellites, we have pictures of the event.Asteroid 2008 TC3 Fireball 

    Most near misses are by asteroids with orbits within Earth’s orbit, such as 2004 FU162. Toutatis’ orbit, on the other hand, is highly eccentric, taking it all the way from the asteroid belt to near the Sun in a brief four year journey.

    Fortunately, most near misses are not as near as near as FU 162 or TC3. Most close encounters are well outside the Moon's orbit. But there are always those dark, surreptitious stalkers that give us just a few hours warning they are on the way.Asteroid explosion aftermath 

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    Asteroid explosion and aftermath: NASA/JPL