It is believed that the fall of this object to Earth could result in a large-scale catastrophe, and the power of the explosion could reach 12 megatons.
Astronomers reported the approach of a potentially dangerous asteroid called 2018 AH, which will fly past Earth at the end of December. NASA recalled that the object had already flown past our planet in 2018, after that, due to its dimness, it remained unnoticed for a long time. Astronomers’ calculations show that there is no danger of a collision during this flyby.
Asteroid 2018 AH
Asteroid 2018 AH flew past Earth in 2018 already but it will continue to come back from time to time due to its elliptical orbit. If this time the distance between it and the Earth is 4.5 million kilometers, then it is not known what it will be during the next passages. Three years ago, 2018 AH flew at a distance of fewer than 300 thousand km. This flyby will happen on December 27.
Size and power of potential impact
According to experts, the celestial body reaches 84 – 190 meters in diameter, which makes it bigger than the presumed Tunguska meteorite from 1908. It is believed that the fall of this object to Earth could result in a large-scale catastrophe, and the power of the explosion could reach 12 megatons. That is, an impact could cause more devastating destruction than an atomic bomb. This forces us to treat the asteroid as a serious danger in the event that 2018 AH changes direction and flies towards Earth.
Scientists remind that the Chelyabinsk meteor with a length of only 17 meters was able to provoke damage to about seven thousand buildings in Russia in 2013. Previously, massive asteroids have repeatedly flown in near-earth space. For example, in 1971, the movement of object 2002 JE9 was noted near the Earth.
Category and danger
According to NASA’s classification of asteroids, the 2018 AH object is assigned to the Apollo category, which corresponds to the maximum level of danger. The orbits of such celestial bodies have intersection points with the Earth’s orbit, but agency experts cannot fully assert whether the object will collide with our planet or not.
Astronomers are inclined to believe that this will not happen. The next truly massive asteroid should be expected in near-earth orbit no earlier than 2028 when the asteroid 2001 WN5 with a diameter of 1000 meters approaches the Earth.
Comparing asteroid 2018 AH with the Tunguska meteorite
We already mentioned the Tunguska meteorite above but we can make an even more in-depth comparison with the approaching asteroid 2018 AH. People in Russia were extremely fortunate because the explosion occurred in the sky and there was no real impact on the surface. Moreover, it happened in a desolate area with almost no population. It did, however, damage a wide area with presumably around 80 million trees.
The explosion during that event was more powerful than an atomic bomb, so imagine the catastrophe it would cause in a densely populated region. Now imagine the approaching asteroid 2018 AH, which is thought to be much larger than the Tunguska meteorite. Fortunately, this flyby will be too far away from Earth to pose any danger but as astronomers note, there is no guarantee about any of its future approaches.
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• Davis, M. (2021, November 27). Large asteroid heading to Earth in December could cause massive destruction greater than an atomic bomb. Science Times.
• The Jerusalem Post. (n.d.). Large asteroid stronger than Nuke heading towards Earth late december.