I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky, in so much as this entire universe was put together in such a way that we’d hit that sweet spot; that perfect distance from the sun that makes this whole thing click.
It’s a comforting thought that defies physics and faith equally, and magnificently.
But, we also mustn’t forget that we are just a lucky rock hurtling through the space at thousands of miles per hour. There is no telling how many pieces of space trash we plow through on an average day, let alone in a lifetime.
Every now and then, something out there does get in here, but it’s not often. Some believe that the Tunguska incident of 1908 may be the last major intruder to strike the planet, and would have looked like the 2013 Russian meteor show on steroids.
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When you really dig into the numbers, the amount of meteors out there waiting to get us can be daunting.
A study done in 1996 (looking at the number of meteorites found in deserts over time) calculated that for objects in the 10 gram to 1 kilogram size range, 2900-7300 kilograms per year hit Earth. However, unlike the number above this does not include the small dust particles. They also estimate between 36 and 166 meteorites larger than 10 grams fall to Earth per million square kilometers per year. Over the whole surface area of Earth, that translates to 18,000 to 84,000 meteorites bigger than 10 grams per year. But most meteorites are too small to actually fall all the way to the surface. (This study was led by P. A. Bland and was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.)
So, to put it rather bluntly, it can get a little dicey out there. As it turns out, we had a fairly close call just days ago that came about quite unexpectedly.
A football-sized asteroid – called 2018 GE3 – buzzed by Earth Sunday in one of the closest encounters the planet has seen in awhile.
At its closest point, the large boulder was just 119,500 miles away from Earth’s atmosphere, about half the distance between Earth and the moon, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). The estimated diameter of the space rock ranged from 131 to 328 feet, CNEOS reports.
That’s nothing compared to asteroids that make up the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which can measure to about 580 miles across, NASA explains on its website. Those asteroids, however, pose no threat to Earth.
The 2018 GE3 asteroid was discovered just one day before it skimmed past Earth in what scientists are calling a “surprise” flyby.