Near Miss From Asteroid Surprises Scientists [VIDEO]

The Washington Post reports:

Alan Duffy was confused. On Thursday, the astronomer’s phone was suddenly flooded with calls from reporters wanting to know about a large asteroid that had just whizzed past Earth, and he couldn’t figure out “why everyone was so alarmed.”

“I thought everyone was getting worried about something we knew was coming,” Duffy, who is lead scientist at the Royal Institution of Australia, told The Washington Post. Forecasts had already predicted that a couple of asteroids would be passing relatively close to Earth this week.

Then, he looked up the details of the hunk of space rock named Asteroid 2019 OK. “I was stunned,” he said. “This was a true shock.” This asteroid wasn’t one that scientists had been tracking, and it had seemingly appeared from “out of nowhere,” Michael Brown, a Melbourne-based observational astronomer, told The Washington Post.

The Associated Press reports:

The space rock, named Asteroid 2019 OK, was first detected by astronomers last week in the United States and Brazil. NASA said the rock measures between 57 and 130 meters wide, much smaller than an extinction-level asteroid which are usually at least half a mile wide, but still capable of bringing major destruction.

“It would have gone off like a very large nuclear weapon,” Duffy said, comparable to about 10 megatons of TNT. Duffy and other astronomers warned that asteroids of this size are highly difficult to detect with advance notice and should be cause for legitimate concern.