Washington: Near Miss Day is celebrated on March 23 and commemorates when 4581 Asclepius passed us by a cosmic whisker. The colossal asteroid shot within 425,000 miles of Earth — just twice the distance to the Moon — in 1989.
Terrifyingly, if it had hit just six hours earlier it would have collided with Earth. “On the cosmic scale of things, that was a close call,” astronomer Henry E Holt told Los Angeles Times. The asteroid measured around 300m in diameter, almost the height of The Shard in London — which NASA said would not be enough to wipe-out life on Earth.
The US space agency explained: “If a rocky meteoroid larger than 25 meters but smaller than one kilometer (1000 meters) were to hit Earth, it would likely cause local damage to the impact area.“It added: “About once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earth’s atmosphere, creates an impressive fireball, and burns up before reaching the surface.
“Every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area. “Only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earth’s civilization comes along. Impact craters on Earth, the moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences.”
Like a boomerang, 4581 Asclepius is coming back one day. On March 24 2051, the asteroid is predicted to pass by again — within 1,140,000 miles from the Earth.