The near-Earth asteroid, 2012 LZ1, will fly past Earth tonight – close enough to be imaged with appropriate gear. But that’s not what makes this event interesting. If you note the name of the asteroid, you can quickly infer that it was discovered this year. A little more digging and you’ll find that it was only discovered four days ago. This asteroid is about 500m in diameter, what is considered a medium sized asteroid. If this were to impact on Earth, the effects would be disastrous. For example, a water impact (probably the ‘safest’ option), would decimate the ozone layer to the point that the UV index would exceed 20. It’s important to note that “A UVI of 10 or greater tends to be dangerous, resulting in burns to people with fair skin in a few minutes exposure” and that “The highest UVI recorded on Earth has been 20.”
It’s clear that there is far too little funding and, as a result, too little effort being put toward discovering and tracking near-Earth objects. We would like to think that we are smarter than the dinosaurs, but our fate may be the same as theirs.
You can watch the object as it passes by Earth here: http://events.slooh.com/
Further reading and references: