Over the weekend, an asteroid about the size of a backyard swimming pool whizzed by Earth at around 50,000 miles per hour. Thanks to NASA’s new “Intruder Alert” system, however, astronomers correctly predicted that it wouldn’t strike our fair planet and turn into some sort of Armageddon/Deep Impact scenario.
The tool that detected the asteroid and deemed it nonthreatening is called Scout and its main job is to track space objects and provide for an early warning system in case they stray too close to humankind. NASA operates a series of telescopes within the Scout program that survey the sky for asteroids and then Scout plots their trajectory to determine exactly how worried we should all be.
In this case, astronomers were notified of the celestial body on October 25th by a telescope in Hawaii. Scout determined the asteroid would miss Earth by some 310,000 miles, which is why everyone wasn’t alerted to ready their doomsday bunkers and it didn’t make national news.
For everyone thinking “Maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing for an asteroid to hit Earth…” your hopes may be dashed in the next 10 to 15 years. NASA is working on an extremely early warning system that would let us know of impending asteroid doom some 20 or 30 years in advance. With a little nudge, these dangerous asteroids would fly off course and leave us safe to kill ourselves in other, more civilized, ways.