An asteroid estimated to be at least 150 feet in diameter made an alarmingly close pass to Earth on Sunday morning just hours after it was first observed by astronomers.
The asteroid, named Asteroid 2018 GE3, was closest to Earth at around 2.41 a.m. ET on April 15 when it was spotted about 119,500 miles away, EarthSky.org reports. That’s closer than the moon, which orbits Earth at an average distance of 238,900 miles. GE3 also passed close to the moon later that morning on its journey around the sun.
According to EarthSky.org, Asteroid 2018 GE3 could be as much as six times bigger than the Chelyabinsk meteorite, which exploded over central Russia in 2013. When the rock hit the atmosphere it caused a bright flash, and thousands of fragments fell throughout the region of Chelyabinsk, breaking windows and injuring about 1,500 people. If GE3 had entered Earth’s atmosphere it could have caused similar, if not more severe, damage.
The asteroid was first observed by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey project, based at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Lab in Tucson, Arizona.