Asteroid 2012 JU passed Earth, coming closer than the moon
Asteroid 2012 JU passed within nearly 119,000 miles of Earth on May 14, just a whisker away from us in astronomical terms.
Indeed, the bus-sized asteroid came closer to us than the moon does, with our celestial partner spinning around us at a distance of 238,000 miles.
Luckily, we were never in any danger from the 12-metre wide asteroid, but it is another reminder of the risk we face from these remnants of the solar system’s early days.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Programme, which is based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, tracks the bullets from space.
They put together an animation of 2012 JU’s orbit, showing how the asteroid swings towards Earth, having spent the last two months travelling towards us from Mars.
After its brief fly-by of our planet, allowing any space aliens on a Greyhound tour to take their space-photos of our little blue marble, the asteroid heads out towards the orbit of Jupiter.
Then the sun’s gravity pulls it back towards to centre of our solar system, and it sweeps round on another tour of the inner planets.
Earth gets asteroid fly-bys all the time from asteroids, with the NASA researchers doing their best to track as many as possible.
They are currently tracking 8,900 near-Earth asteroids, hoping to spot any threats to our planet before they arrive, like the asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs 65million years ago.