Internal emails from NASA reveal how experts did not detect a football-field-sized asteroid until it was nearly to miss Earth this summer narrowly.
In emails obtained by BuzzFeed News through a Freedom of Information Act request, NASA officials requested how the asteroid, named “2019 OK,” had disappeared from detection until an observatory in Brazil reported it on July 24 the same day it passed our planet.
Within the email chain, Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, posed two questions: First, “why was 2019 OK not found by one of many main NASA surveys?” and, if the Brazilian observatory hadn’t detected the asteroid, “is it possible it may have escaped discovery completely?”
NASA experts decided that a mixture of factors finally brought on the agency to miss it, including the moon’s position, lousy weather and the slow-moving nature of the asteroid.
The event highlights Congress’ long-running failure to fund reliable equipment to observe “probably hazardous” asteroids, News reported.
NASA experts additionally expressed frustration over the best way Australian scientists and the media overdraw the asteroid, defining it as a “city killer” to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Based on NASA’s informational statement about OK 2019 from last month, had the asteroid hit Earth, it could have created “localized devastation to an area roughly 50 miles throughout.” If it had fallen within the ocean, it would have been a “bad day for any sailing vessels within the vicinity,” however it’s doubtful it might have triggered a tsunami.
The probabilities of an asteroid of this size hitting Earth is “only on the order of once each several thousand years,” Chodas stated.