An eastern Kansas man who built his own telescope and operates it from a shed in his back yard has discovered a previously unknown and potentially hazardous asteroid.
Gary Hug lives near Scranton. He was trying to help plot the orbit of a known Near Earth Object when he noticed something Sunday night that appeared to be moving too slow to be a satellite, but too fast to be a main belt asteroid.
“This thing’s about a quarter-kilometer in diameter. So, if something like that were to hit the Earth at 20,000 to 30,000 miles an hour, which is kind of an average speed for them, it would be pretty devastating — at least regionally,” says Hug.
The devastation would cover several states. If it landed in the ocean, it would cause a major tsunami.
The good news is that it only came within 10 million miles of the Earth this time. But Hug says it could someday get as close as 300,000 miles—roughly the same distance as the moon.
“The chances of this thing actually hitting the Earth at any time is really small, like in hundred thousands to one against. It does have some mathematical possibility, and it does get fairly close to us, so it’s worth keeping an eye on,” says Hug.
Hug discovered another near-Earth asteroid just last September. It’s only one-tenth of the size of this new one, but it comes a lot closer to the Earth.