A particularly big asteroid passed by Earth particularly close on March 15. The flyby was completely safe and didn’t pose any risk to anything or anyone on Earth or any of our satellites. But asteroid 2021 EQ3 came closer to Earth than our lone natural satellite.
Sky surveys and other telescopes spot a space rock passing closer than the moon every few days, on average. Most of these asteroids are just a few meters across, likely making them no larger than a bus.
Asteroid 2021 EQ3, however, had an estimated diameter between 17 and 38 meters (55 to 124 feet). That makes it about the same size as the meteoroid that, creating a shock wave that blew out thousands of windows in the city of Chelyabinsk below, injuring hundreds.
2021 EQ3 passed closest above us at roughly 9:45 p.m. PT, at a distance of around 173,000 miles (278,000 kilometers) — that’s 72% of the distance from the Earth to the moon.
This makes 2021 EQ3 the second largest object to come closer than the moon in 2021.
It’s also different thanwith a diameter around a mile. That asteroid passed by on March 21, but at a distance five times farther away than the moon.
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Clarification, March 22 at 5:44 p.m. PT: The timestamp on an earlier version of this story suggested this asteroid would fly past a week later than it did. It zoomed past Earth safely on March 15. Read about the more recent asteroid, 2001 FO32, here.