Classified as 2006 QQ23 and measuring 1,870 feet in diameter, this Empire State Building-sized asteroid buzzed Earth on July 25, coming within 45,000 miles of our planet. NASA’s Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS) computes the orbits of known near-Earth objects to determine if they have any chance of striking the planet at some point in the future, any any with a minimum approach distance of less than 0.05 astronomical units and potentially measure more than 460 feet in diameter are deemed “potentially hazardous.”
There was no real chance of asteroid 2006 QQ23 striking Earth, but let’s say it avoided land and landed in the ocean, a large tsunami could significantly damage low-lying areas, thus causing global climatic changes potentially lasting for years. Fortunately, the majority of space objects that enter our atmosphere are small—less than 30 feet in diameter and burn up in the air as they fall.
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“It snuck up on us pretty quickly. People are only sort of realizing what happened pretty much after it’s already flung past us,” said Michael Brown, a Melbourne, Australia-based observational astronomer who is an associate professor at Monash University’s School of Physics and Astronomy.