Buzzed, by #2014 JO25

The name is terribly mundane, but the consequences of the close pass of asteroid 2014 JO25 last week are anything but. This peanut-shaped, 1400-yards, asteroid whizzed past Earth at a distance of about 1 million miles. At 4 time the Earth-Moon distance, that seems pretty safe, but in astronomy sizes that is a buzz call.


Good news: Wednesday was the closest this asteroid has been in 400 years, and it won’t get this close again for at least 500 years. It’s not going to hit Earth, and if it were, we’d know it by now.

Somewhat disconcerting news: When the radar at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico spotted it, astronomers realized the space rock was larger than they had thought. Today’s estimate is about 0.8 miles wide.

Let us, for a moment, consider a scenario in which a 0.8-mile-wide asteroid strikes Earth. First, the magic number for total apocalypse is 60 miles. That’s how big an asteroid would need to be to wipe out human life. At six miles wide, even the asteroid that led to dinosaur extinction was much smaller than the Earth-obliterating scenario.

When physics tells me an asteroid this large would release 1031 Joules of kinetic energy, I take note. That’s how much energy the sun releases in a day. Think about that for a minute. But don’t dwell! Breathe easy.

Luckily, there’s nothing that large orbiting in our neighborhood. Instead, we’re plagued by articles like this that pop up every other month when little space rocks pass our planet 1 million miles away.



60 comments on “Buzzed, by #2014 JO25

  1. While it feels good that I don’t have to put on a tin hat any time soon it is still rather startling that something that massive came that close. I just pray that something annihilation size isn’t on direct path to home quite yet.


  2. Asteroids really are the easiest way to wipe out life on earth, so it’s interesting how perfectly these space peanuts miss everything, because if we were a couple of earth to moon distances closer, yesterday would have been a very interesting day. Talk about getting that summer tan.


  3. I have always wondered what would happen if an asteroid hit the Earth. It is interesting that a 60 miles wide asteroid would destroy human life! Nevertheless it is good to know that it won’t get any close to the Earth in the next 500 years.


  4. It is crazy and amazing how an asteroid can end all life. However very thankful for how science has evolved over the years to help us calculate if there would ever be an incident like this.


  5. This is so scary to consider! Even though it was not that close, but in a way relatively closer than normal! What is the most interesting to me is how it mentions the asteroid that is believe to end the dinosaurs, it is scary to think about these possibilities even though are not that likely.


  6. I kind of get bugged by articles that call asteroids that are million of miles away “close calls”. I understand that in astronomical terms, it may be relatively close. But in order to keep the interest of the layperson, they need to be able to relate more to them. And keeping the interest of the layperson helps keep funding going. And asteroid passing a million miles away may cause people to shrug, but an asteroid passing between the moon and Earth will get much needed attention and funding for asteroid research.


  7. Considering how huge Earth is it’s crazy that a astroid as little as 60 miles crosswise over is sufficient to end all life on Earth. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear like anything to that degree will happen at any point in the near future.


  8. I find it interesting there was something that could have been. We could have had something disastrous on our hands but we didn’t. It shows us that once again our universe is a remarkable thing and it can surprise us very much. I also find it remarkable that they are able to connect this asteroid or more or less the way it works to the reason why we mainly have mammals on Earth and all the dinosaurs disappeared. The universe and mother Earth are remarkable.


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