An asteroid as strong as 15 atomic bombs whizzed past earth last night at just ten times the distance of the moon. Astronomers first spotted the cigar-shaped rock spinning through space on Monday evening and tracked it. The star-gazers were baffled by why the asteroid ‘blinked’ at them until they realised that due to is long shape, the darkness came when it rotated slightly out of view.
Thankfully, the 50m long rock that could have destroyed a small country went barely noticed as it passed earth at a distance of some 2,085,321 miles.
‘Usually, when we see an asteroid strobe on and off like that, it means that the body is elongated and we are viewing it broadside along its long axis first, and then on its narrow end as it rotates,’ Don Yeomans from Nasa told news.com.au.
‘GP59 is approximately 50m long, and we think its period of rotation is about seven-and-a-half minutes. This makes the object’s brightness change every four minutes or so.’
Nick James, from Chelmsford, Essex, recorded the newly discovered ‘Asteroid 2011 GP59’ on Monday night showing the object hurtling across the screen and blinking on and off.
The asteroid, which was recorded with an 11-inch telescope, was around 2,085,321-miles away from Earth – ten times the distance of the moon which is 238,857 miles away.
It was picked up by astronomers at the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca in Andalusia, Spain, who’ve since determined that it’s heading towards us.
Last night, the cosmic rock passed earth at a distance of more than two million miles.
But space experts said there was no need to be concerned as direct hit on earth would be highly unlikely.
‘There is no possibility of the small space rock entering Earth’s atmosphere during this pass or for the foreseeable future,’ Yeoman added.
He said that the orbit of the ‘Asteroid 2011 GP59’ could be accurately plotted.
Astronomers have so far recorded around 3,000 asteroids.
The most recent asteroid is five times bigger than one that exploded over Indonesia in October 2009.
According to the New Scientist magazine, the Indonesian asteroid was as powerful as three atomic bombs, roughly making the new Asteroid 2011 GP59 the same strength as 15 bombs.
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