A surprise asteroid which was only spotted by scientists on Friday night narrowly missed the Earth just hours later, flying within the orbit of geostationary satellites.
“[The asteroid] was discovered on Friday night by our station near Lake Baikal and nine hours later it flew within 11,300 kilometers of the Earth surface, below the orbit of geostationary satellites. It was about 15 meters in size,” said Vladimir Lipunov of the Moscow State University and the Sternberg Astronomical Institute.
The incident will once again re-ignite debate about the threat posed by near-earth objects and what some claim are inadequate attempts on behalf of governments and space agencies to prepare for them.
In 2029 and again in 2036 a much larger asteroid named Apophis will fly very close to the Earth, potentially disrupting satellites.
There is a one in 250,000 chance that the asteroid will hit the Earth, a threat that has prompted Russia to explore methods of deflecting it.
According to Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Russian’s Federal Space Agency, the threat of an impact is somewhat more than remote. He says that a “scientist recently told him” that Apophis may hit Earth in 2032.
Earlier this year, a meteor weighing 10,000 tons broke apart in the Earth’s atmosphere above the city of Chelyabinsk in the Urals, causing 1500 injuries.
The unexpected incident caused consternation because it coincided with the fly-by of asteroid 2012 DA14, which was much larger.