Last night, at around 2:35 a.m. EST, an asteroid roughly the same size as the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk last month, flew by the Earth.
The differences between this asteroid and the Chelyabinsk one are that a) it only came as close to us as the Moon's orbit, and b) we knew about it nearly two days in advance.
The asteroid, which is now called simply '2013 EC', was discovered on Saturday by the Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona.
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According to Gianluca Masi, of the Virtual Telescope Project, who recorded a webcast of the close encounter:
"That we are finding all these asteroids recently does not mean that we are being visited by more asteroids, just that our ability to detect them has gotten so much better. Our technology has improved a lot over the past decades."
Using orbiting satellites and ground-based telescopes, NASA has identified an estimated 95% of the large asteroids and meteors that could pose a significant threat to life on Earth if they were to get too close to us, however detecting much smaller objects is significantly more difficult. According to Space.com, astronomers believe there are up to 1 million or more space rocks floating around in our vicinity, and only around 9,700 of them have been identified.
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Small objects hitting Earth's atmosphere are nothing out of ordinary, mind you. An estimated 37,000-78,000 tons of rock falls to Earth each year, mostly in the form of space dust, but also larger chunks of rock that burn up in our atmosphere or fall harmlessly to the ground.
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