Somewhere outside Barstow, on the edge of the desert, a team of scientists have been tracking an asteroid. Yesterday, it passed by Earth from about 201,000 miles away — closer to our fragile little home planet than the Moon. According to the Los Angeles Times, it was the closest an asteroid had come to Earth in 35 years.
The terrifying deathrock was about 1,300 feet wide, which, it appears, would have caused serious problems had it come for a closer visit — in 1908, an asteroid less than 200 feet wide knocked down 80 million trees in Russia and caused an explosion about 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
But we survived, so the only thing to do is sit back and marvel at how insane our technology has become. From the L.A. Times (emphasis ours):
It will not be visible to the naked eye, but professional and amateur astronomers may be able to see it with a telescope.
The flyby allowed scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to blast the rock with a beam of microwaves, revealing its ridges, craters and boulders to a radio telescope and providing enough information about its speed and trajectory to allow JPL officials to plot its course for the next 64 years.
The NASA Jet Propulsion Lab is in California — they took some kind of crazy microwave gun and shot a 1,300-foot rock from 201,000 miles away, all because they wanted to look at “ridges, craters and boulders.” And then, somehow, all those boulders told them where this thing was going until 2075. This is why you don’t make fun of the kids who are good at math.