Apr 19, 2018 I Brett Tingley

‘Tunguska-Sized’ Surprise Asteroid Narrowly Misses Earth

Sometimes, it’s just better not to know what goes on above our heads. Our planet is constantly bombarded with rocks and objects hurtling through our solar system, but luckily, most of these are so small they explode upon colliding with our atmosphere and fall to the ground in the form of mostly harmless pebbles - or even microscopic diamonds. Occasionally, though (geologically speaking), large asteroids make it through our atmosphere with the potential to cause real damage. Aside from collisions in distant epochs which killed off many of our predecessors like the dinosaurs, there have been a few recent incidents of some truly terrifying asteroid collisions.

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In 2014, a 20-meter-wide meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring over 1,000 people and causing widespread property damage.

One of the most terrifying examples is the infamous Tunguska Incident which occurred over Siberia on June 30, 1908. While the event is still mostly shrouded in mystery, one thing is clear: something very big exploded in the air above the Siberian wilderness, producing energy 1,000 times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan and flattening more than 80 million trees over an area of 2,150  square kilometers (830 square miles). “Sure,” you say, “that’s pretty scary. But that was over 100 years ago and in the middle of nowhere.” That it might have been, but the comet thought to have been responsible for the Tunguska meteorite returns every 3 years. Even scarier? An asteroid similar in size to the one which exploded over Tunguska narrowly missed Earth just this week. Even even scarier? It went largely undetected until it whizzed right by us.

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Trees flattened in the aftermath of the 1908 Tunguska event, revealing a rough blast pattern with the direction they fell.

The asteroid, known as 2018 GE3, zoomed past our fragile planet on Sunday April 15 around 2:41 a.m. EDT (0641 GMT), missing us by a distance of just 192,000 kilometers (119,400 miles). That’s only half the distance between the Earth and the Moon. The asteroid is thought to measure somewhere between 48 to 110 meters in diameter (157 to 360 feet), making it even larger than the Tunguska asteroid. The worst part? It was detected only 21 hours before its closest approach to Earth.

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NASA tracks tens of thousands of similar near-Earth objects. We're basically sitting ducks.

With every near-miss asteroid that zooms by, it’s becoming clear: it’s not a matter of if, but when. How well-stocked is your bunker? And remember: keep one bullet per person hidden away just in case. Some things aren’t worth living through.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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