The meteor that exploded over Russia was much smaller than the asteroid that will buzz Earth Friday. But it shows how destructive Earth impacts can be – and how unexpected.
As scientists prepared to watch a massive asteroid zip past Earth Friday, a 10-ton meteor lit up the sky over the Russian region of Chelyabinsk before exploding into fragments high above the ground. And just like that, a day of one flying space rock became a day of two.
"This is a big deal," says Kaliat Ramesh, a professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "You really should view this meteoroid we saw in Russia as a wake-up call" regarding the hazards even small objects can present, he adds.
Indeed, it's a day of multiple wake-up calls.
At 2:24 p.m. EST today, asteroid 2012 DA14 passed within a scant 17,200 miles of Earth – a whisker in cosmic terms.