In the last seven days, an asteroid the size of a city block and three smaller space rocks have zoomed safely by Earth, the latest demonstration that we live in a solar system that some scientists have dubbed a “cosmic shooting gallery.”
All four asteroid flybys occurred between March 4 and Sunday, March 10. The asteroids were also all discovered this month, some just days ago.
The biggest space rock encounter occurred Saturday, when the asteroid 2013 ET passed just inside 600,000 miles of Earth. That asteroid is about 460 feet long and approached within 2.5 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
“The scary part about this one, of course, is that it’s something we didn’t even know about,” said Patrick Paolucci, president of the online Slooh Space Camera during a live webcast of 2013 ET’s flyby. The asteroid was first discovered on March 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona. [See a video of asteroid 2013 ET]
Also on Saturday, a smaller asteroid called 2013 EC20 (discovered on Thursday, March 7) came even closer to Earth, passing at a range of about 93,000 miles, less than half the distance to the moon. It was about 23 feet across.