On Friday afternoon an asteroid known as "2012 DA14" floated by this lonely Earth and, thank God, did not collide with it. But it came close. Officials at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory studying the course of the asteroid estimate that it missed the planet by 17,500 miles at its closest point to Earth, around 2:25 p.m. Eastern, over Indonesia. That's 100-200 miles further from destruction than they had previously estimated! (For comparison, the Moon orbits the Earth approximately 238,900 miles away.) The asteroid measured about 148 feet across — half the length of an American football field — and sped along its path at 5 miles per second, or 18,000 miles per hour. So if DA14 had collided with Earth, the damage would have been, you know, pretty noticeable. Like, the size of Monaco noticeable. But according to several scientists who spoke with Gizmodo, the chance that the asteroid would both make impact and do so within a major population center was always pretty small.
Of course, none of this speculation is any comfort to the 1,200-plus people who were injured by shattered glass this morning after a meteorite burst into flames and landed on a zinc factory in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.