192,000 km may seem huge, but in space, it’s ridiculously small. It’s half the distance to the moon and it’s at this distance from the Earth that an asteroid has passed, on Sunday, April 15th.
2018 GE3, as the asteroid is named, was identified on April 14 by the Catalina Sky Survey, a project by the American University of Arizona, funded by NASA and dedicated to the search for asteroids and comets near the Earth. Austrian astrophile Michael Jäger managed to capture it as it sped through the constellation of the Snake, publishing the video on spaceweather.com.
There is nothing extraordinary about an asteroid passing by the Earth. In fact, hundreds of them pass by our blue marble every year. However, at 44 to 110 meters in diameter, this asteroid is big enough to cause massive damage if it was to hit our planet. The asteroid that fell over Russia in 2013, which injured a thousand people, was only 15 to 17 meters in diameter.
2018 GE3, about 4 times larger than the meteorite that fell in Russia in 2013, passed between the Earth and the Moon.
According to NASA, an object over 25 meters in diameter would cause “local damage around the impact zone”. There would be no risk to the Earth as a whole if the size of the asteroid is less than 1km. But according to Andrew Rader, a researcher and engineer at SpaceX, 2018 GE3 is “vast enough to destroy a city”.
That such a thing passed so close to us is rare. According to the database maintained by NASA, there are only three asteroids of a similar size or superior to have been so close since the beginning of the twentieth century.
As it has just been spotted it, its orbit is still very uncertain as well as its mass and its diameter, which could change in the weeks to come. But according to preliminary estimates, it would take about two and a half years before returning more or less close to Earth.