Asteroid 2019 OK (Photo Source: Twitter)
These last few weeks have been extremely lucky for the human civilization with several giant asteroids approached dangerously close to Earth but did not hit. However, none of us are lucky all of the time and lack of proper warning may lead our planet towards massive destruction. The example is right here. Yes! After overcoming at least three asteroid threats in the last few days, another demon space rock named 2019 OK just snuck up in us, but we were hardly warned about it.
In past too, lack of awareness caused several near-Earth incidents - the Tunguska event in Siberia in 1908 and the Chelyabinsk meteor of 2013 in Russia. Though no fatalities were reported in those incidents, they could have led to irreparable damage to human lives with occurence of tsunamis, shock waves and flattening winds in densely-populated areas.
Moving on to Asteroid 2019 OK, the sizeable celestial body of about 187 to 427 feet (57 to 130 metres) in width, zoomed past Earth on Wednesday at an "uncomfortable" distance of about 45,000 miles (73,000 kilometres), as per data shared by NASA scientists. Though experts have been long tracking a large number of near-Earth objects, the July 25 event took them by surprise.
Therefore, we have been proved damn lucky yet another time, as scientists suggest that Asteroid 2019 OK, if collided with the Earth, could have caused far-reaching devastating consequences.
Talking about the probable consequences, Michael Brown, an associate professor in astronomy at Monash University in Australia, said, "The lack of warning shows how quickly potentially dangerous asteroids can sneak up on us. While the asteroid is not a threat to Earth right now, other near-Earth asteroids of this kind could be". Brown's study was first appeared in The Conversation following the surprising flyby of 2019 OK this Wednesday.
2019 OK, far larger than the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor, was actually tracked down by the SONEAR survey on Wednesday, and then it was independently mapped by the ASAS-SN telescope network, with all of the systems using small telescopes.
Prior to its discovery as a near-Earth asteroid, it was captured by other telescopes, that allowed researches to nail down its elliptical orbit. However, the scale of potential damage could not be predicted at that time.
In the wake of these frequent asteroid threats, there are several ongoing missions to near-Earth asteroids, like Bennu and Ryugu, which are looking into slightly changing their velocity. However, astronomers need a long time notice on such flyby in order to help avoid collision, Professor Brown said.
There are certain ways to do something about an asteroid potentially taking a collision course, for instance by changing their velocity "by just 1km per hour, over years that adds up to thousands of kilometres’ difference in position", Brown stated.