A meteor the size of a bus nearly just hit Earth

Ryan Butcher@ryanjohnbutcher
Thursday 28 December 2017 16:45
Picture:(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

While climate change and Donald Trump are both pretty safe bets to eventually destroy the planet, we still can't rule out an old favourite - the Earth being hit by a meteorite.

And scientists say the latter almost happened today with an asteroid that was only first-spotted on Christmas Day.

The newly-named 2017 YZ4 was spotted by astronomers at the Mount Lemmon Survey near Tucson, Arizona, hurtling through space at almost 21,500 miles an hour.

It is believed to be roughly the size of a bus and was thought to have passed between the Earth and the moon at around 4.56pm, at a distance of just 139,433 miles.

That's close enough to be considered a "near miss" by astronomers, with Nasa describing asteroids as "hazardous" if they come within 4,600,000 miles of our planet.

Lindley Johnson, planetary defence officer at Nasa's Science Mission Directorate in Washington told Newsweek:

2017 YZ4 is the 52nd known asteroid to fly by Earth within one lunar distance this year and the first since two such asteroids flew past us on November 21.

As of December 25, there are 17,506 known Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), in orbits around the Sun that could come close to our planet; 17,400 are asteroids and 106 are comets.

This year, we’ve discovered 1,996 Near Earth Asteroids so far.

There were 1887 such objects discovered in 2016 and 1,566 in 2015.

So it sounds like we just had a close shave.

More: Don't panic but a large asteroid is heading our way.

More: Asteroids are flying past the Earth more often than usual.