There is yet another giant asteroid the size of a skyscraper headed toward Earth, at an estimated speed of 18,000 MPH. NASA alerted the world about the oncoming celestial object - but noted that there is no real cause for concern (yet) that Armaggeddon is here. The asteroid is said to be on a "near-collision" course with the planet but is expected to miss direct impact by about 2.8 million miles. That might not sound all that scary to a layman who hears that number, but in terms of astronomy and space exploration, it's a notable cause for wariness.
This latest asteroid is designated as "2008 G020" and is categorized as an "Apolo" in NASA terminology, denoting an object that passes near a certain measured range of Earth. 2008 G020 has apparently threatened our planet before: according to TMZ's report, the asteroid came within 1 million miles of Earth when it passed us in 1901. Talk about a nail-biter. This current trajectory puts G020 out in our solar system somewhere between Earth's moon and Mars.
In the last year, news about objects in space encroaching on Earth has made big headlines and gone viral on social media. While such reports from NASA have always been shared with the public, the overall Doomsday vibes of the year 2020 and the increased fascination with "doom-scrolling" online and big conspiracy theories all combined into a fine brew of people looking for any and every sign that the end times were indeed nigh.
In June of last year asteroid 2002 NN4 (a rock the size of NYC's Empire State Building) passed by Earth; it was followed by a mysterious object dubbed "2020 SO" (15-33 ft width) came within 31,605 miles of the planet. By December, we were on the lookout for the much smaller asteroid 501647 (or "2014 SD224") which whizzed by with 1.8 million miles to spare. Then there are the man-made calamities we have to look out for, such as China's Long March 5B rocket, which fell back to Earth in May.
Again, it's hard to say for sure if these near-death experiences for planet Earth are just a cosmic roulette game with increasingly long odds for our collective survival - or, they're just normal occurrences of space exploration now getting more attention thanks to tabloids and social media trends. If there's any silver lining to all this, is that it keeps NASA visible and relevant (and even cool?) in the modern era, when we may in fact need those kinds of minds more than ever!