Asteroid close approach: Space rock flies by closer than the Moon

On March 23, an asteroid came so close to Earth that it passed within the orbit of the Moon. One measurement between the Earth and the Moon is known as one lunar distance (LD).

However, an asteroid known as 2021 FH came within just 0.6LD of Earth as it shot by our planet.

Observations from NASA show the asteroid was travelling at 12 kilometres per second when it flew by.

This equates to more than 43,000 kilometres per hour, meaning it would have been fast enough to complete an orbit of the Earth in less than an hour.

For reference, it takes the Moon more than 27 days to complete a full orbit.

The asteroid 2021 FH was a relatively small asteroid, measuring only 16 metres in diameter.

At that size, if the asteroid had collided with our planet, it would have likely burnt up in the atmosphere.

At most, it would have caused an explosion in the sky similar to the Chelyabinsk incident.

The Chelyabinsk incident saw a 20-metre space rock burst through the atmosphere above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

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NASA said on its JPL website: “NEOs are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.

“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.

“The giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) formed from an agglomeration of billions of comets and the left over bits and pieces from this formation process are the comets we see today.

“Likewise, today’s asteroids are the bits and pieces left over from the initial agglomeration of the inner planets that include Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.”