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Newly-discovered asteroid will slip by Earth today at an incredibly close distance

Published Feb 9th, 2018 10:02AM EST
asteroid 2018 cb

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NASA tracks hundreds upon hundreds of potentially hazardous objects that routinely cruise past our planet. Many of them have been known about for years or even decades, but more are being discovered all the time. In fact, over ten new potentially hazardous asteroids have been spotted so far in 2018 already, and a new candidate for that list will squeeze by Earth today at an incredibly short distance.

The rock, named 2018 CB, is pretty small. It’s only thought to be between 50 and 130 feet across, making it just a baby, but that’s still large enough to pack a serious punch if it were to find its way into Earth’s atmosphere. Thankfully, NASA is pretty sure that won’t happen this time around.

The pint-sized asteroid is expected to pass by our planet at a distance of around 39,000 miles. That might sound like a healthy gap, but it’s an incredibly close shave in astronomical terms. The Moon, for example, orbits Earth at around 238,900 miles. In fact, the rock will be so close that even amateur astronomers will be able to glimpse it as it passes. You can watch a live stream of the flyby courtesy of the Virtual Telescope Project, which will be streaming it online.

In terms of the threat it poses, or would pose if it got too close for comfort, 2018 CB could cause some pretty serious damage if it were to strike or explode over a major city. It’s on par with the space rock that detonated in the air above Chelyabinsk, Russia, half a decade ago. The explosion carried the force of as many as 33 of the Hiroshima atomic bombs, and even though it blew up well high above, the shockwave it produced shattered glass and created panic for residents.

2018 CB is actually the second near-miss we’ve had so far this week. Another newly-discovered rock called 2018 CC slipped by us on Tuesday at a more comfortable distance of around 114,000 miles. That’s still well within one lunar distance, but safe enough that it never posed a serious threat. If you’re an asteroid hunter, 2018 is already shaping up to be a pretty exciting year.

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