Another sizable asteroid has made a close pass to Earth on May 15, making 2010 WC9 the 35th object to pass within one lunar distance in 2018 alone, and the 17th to have passed within one-half of the distance between the Earth and the Moon. Thankfully, this object wasn’t big enough–or traveling fast enough for that matter–to cause any major damage to the Earth if it had actually hit us. But what is up with the increased number of asteroids making close passes to our little blue home?
A new asteroid was discovered by the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission in November of 2016, designated 2016 WF9. While the mission finally decided to designate the object as an asteroid a few days later, 2016 WF9 presented an interesting puzzle: while it appears to be a comet in structure, it also lacks the dust and gas cloud that is characteristic of what we expect from comets.
Continuing it’s role as our solar system’s cosmic vacuum cleaner, the planet Jupiter swallowed up an object that was estimated to be similar in size to the meteorite that exploded over Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013 — an incident that reportedly caused property damage and injuries to approximately 1,500 people. But, despite being 674.5 million km (419.1 million miles) away, the spectacular explosion the impact caused was recorded by modest-sized telescopes here on Earth.
Earlier this month, Russia’s Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau announced it’s intention to upgrade intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), to be used against asteroids that could potentially impact the Earth. The proposal comes two years after the high-altitude, 500-kiloton explosion of a 20-meter (65-foot) meteorite over Russia’s Chelyabinsk region, an event that caused extensive injuries and property damage.