An asteroid is expected to pass near Earth Monday, but don’t be alarmed because it isn’t a threat to the planet. The asteroid — designated 2011 MD — will be closer than the moon but farther away than 2011 CQ1, an asteroid which passed by the Earth in February, narrowly missing the planet by 3,405 miles.
According to Geek, 2011 MD will be fairly close to the Earth — within 7,500 miles, which is 32 times closer to the Earth than the Moon. Some concerns have arisen over the late detection of the asteroid by MIT’s Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) robotic telescopes.
There are also some concerns over whether 2011 MD is actually an asteroid. Once a discovery is made and verified by LINEAR, it is then passed on to the Minor Planet Center (MPC), a group that gives new discoveries a designation in the universe. It is possible that what many believe to be another close encounter with an asteroid is actually a discarded rocket booster from a planetary probe.
Whether the new discovery is an asteroid or a discarded rocket booster, if it were to hit the Earth the impact would be tragic. 2011 MD’s size is comparable to the size of a large house. A report on Live Science from 2010 detailed the impact of an asteroid hitting an ocean and cited that, “An asteroid splashdown in one of Earth’s oceans could trigger a destructive chemical cycle that would wipe out half the ozone layer.”
The report also claims that the loss of protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays would lead humans into a vampire-style existence because it would be dangerous to go outdoors during daylight hours. Some researchers have suggested that the land impact of an asteroid on the Earth would have an even greater effect than one that hits the ocean. Although an ocean impact is more likely if an asteroid were to make impact with the Earth, it would be similar to a nuclear winter.
Observers of the Tunguska, Siberia, asteroid, which exploded just above the Earth in June of 1908, leaving a shower of fragments to land on the ground, reported the sky appearing to be on fire, a large explosion, flattened and incinerated trees, deafening bangs up to 300 miles away, and seismic activity 600 miles away. Imagine if that asteroid had hit New York City, Chicago or any other well-populated city. The impact would be tragic.
Fortunately, 2011 MD will just be passing the Earth at around 1 p.m. Eastern time. Since the asteroid will be passing through the Earth’s orbit during daylight hours it will be very hard for humans to observe it with the naked eye.