March 23 is Near Miss Day, an annual reminder of the day in 1989 when an asteroid nearly collided with the Earth.
The 300-meter wide asteroid called 4581 Asclepius flew past the Earth by a distance of about 450,000 miles (684,000 kms) and almost missed striking it by 6 hours. Experts estimate that if the asteroid had hit the Earth, the resulting collision would have released energy equal to about 1000 atom bombs!
Discovered Days Later
It is a good thing then that the asteroid wasn't discovered until March 31, 9 days after it had flown by the Earth. Named after the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius, was discovered by American astronomers Henry E. Holt and Norman G. Thomas.
Nothing to Worry About
Since 1989, several meteoroids and asteroids have buzzed past the Earth from a safe distance. Scientists and astronomers measure the probability of a celestial object colliding with the Earth on two different scales - the Torino Scale and the Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale. According to NASA, there are very few near-Earth objects that have the capacity to hit the Earth and create havoc in the near future.
Asteroids are space rocks that are a by-product of the formation of the Solar System. Found mostly in the asteroid belt – the region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, these celestial objects contain minerals highly coveted by humans.
How to Celebrate?
This one's easy. Celebrate the day by celebrating life and all the second chances you have ever been given.
Learn more about asteroids and other near-Earth objects.