Did you hear? The sky is falling…sort of.
On Friday, the citizens of Planet Earth were witness to two extraordinary cosmic events. First, a giant meteor exploded in the skies over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The spectacular space rock streaked across the sky (inspiring many Russians to capture the surreal scene with their phones and cameras) before burning or blasting apart, creating a huge sonic boom and injuring more than 1,500 people as glass windows shattered across the city. Weighing in at around 10,000 tons, this was the largest meteor to hit Earth in more than a century. As scientists analyze bits and pieces of the massive meteor, others are hoping to cash in by selling fragments on eBay. One thing is for sure—this was a major (& very rare!) impact event.
Then there was the Friday flyby of Asteroid 2012 DA14, which passed through the moon’s orbit, very, very close to Earth. The asteroid, about half the size of a football field, came within nearly 17,000 miles of our planet at its closest approach (that’s about 220,000 miles closer than the moon!) before cruising away from us again. Asteroid 2012 DA14 came nearer than many of our satellites as breathless Earthlings watched from astro-observatories around the world.
Either of these events would have thrilled astrophysicists & other space-savvy folk (while terrifying everyone else), but two amazing close encounters with near-earth objects in one day? Pretty exciting stuff. Be sure to beef up on your knowledge of killer rocks from outer space and other cosmic phenomena by doing a little light reading at your friendly neighborhood library.