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Close, but no city-smashing asteroid

Photo Courtesy, NASA

SALT LAKE CITY —  This is a story about what-ifs and maybes.

And, maybe, we should throw in a “whew” as well.

That’s because Earth dodged a bullet last week.

Or more accurately it dodged, an asteroid. Or an asteroid dodged the Earth, either way, it didn’t happen.

But the real story to tell is why didn’t we hear about the asteroid, named 2019 OK, sooner?  Usually, if an asteroid is approaching Earth or is about to approach Earth there are a lot of smart people that know about it and they talk about it.

People like Patrick Wiggins, Utah’s own Solar System Ambassador. He spoke with KSL Newsradio’s Grant Nielsen Monday afternoon and equated the approach of this asteroid to the way bad guys came into the picture in old-timey westerns:  in the same direction as the sun.

“A big old rock is traveling towards us but because it’s coming from the direction of the sun we couldn’t see it coming,” Wiggins told KSL Newsradio. “We did see it a day or so out, but that wouldn’t have been enough time even if it was going to impact.”

According to the SONEAR Observatory in Brazil first reported the asteroid on July 24th. They say it was between 187 and 426 feet. In other words, a “city killer.”

“It certainly would have made a lot of noise. A big concussion reaching the ground. Whether or not any of the big pieces would reach the ground … it would have broken up on the way through,” said Wiggins.

“But if it had been a solid iron asteroid that hit a city? Yeah, that’d be really bad!”

And Wiggins left KSL Newsradio listeners, and fill-in host Grant Nielsen, with this tidbit.

“This makes the twelfth asteroid that’s come closer than the moon in the last twelve months!”

But take heart! NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has established a Planetary Defense Coordination Office that looks for ways to deflect an asteroid from a predicted impact with Earth.

Still, some so-called Near Earth Objects are too small to detect.