It is becoming almost a regular occurrence — announcements by those looking into space for dangerous asteroids — that they had missed another near miss.
Now to be fair, the asteroid called 2017 AG13 was only half the size of the asteroids the Catalina Sky Survey is looking for. It is an organization partially funded by NASA to scour the skies with NEOCam, an infra-red telescope, looking for potentially dangerous asteroids. They only had 24 hours notice on this one that passed by earth on Saturday, January 7, 2017.
But half the size meant this asteroid was 25 meters to 35 meters tall — ten stories — and according to reports it was traveling at 16 kms a second (9.9 miles per second).
A near miss in astronomical terms meant that it was 126,461 miles out, passing halfway between earth and the moon. Of course, any asteroids intersecting our planet’s trajectory are always a concern because of the potential for the earth’s gravity to pull them in.
The asteroid that exploded high in the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013, was estimated at 17 meters in size. Its blast shattered windows injuring 1,000 people.
Based on its trajectory, it is believed 2017 AG13 would have similarly exploded in the sky if it had entered earth’s atmosphere. They estimated the explosion would have been the equivalent of 700 kilotons.
As a comparison, the nuclear bomb that exploded in the sky above Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 was only 20 kilotons — 30,000 to 40,000 people were killed directly by the blast and a similar number died later from burns and radiation poisoning.
NASA’s Near Earth Object Program says that there will be 38 asteroids passing near earth’s atmosphere this January alone.
Because of growing concerns about a potential asteroid strike, in December 2016, the US government released its strategy on how it would deal with such a hit. It admitted in the document that receiving early warning on such a strike is almost impossible at this point.
The asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk caught everyone totally off guard because it came in directly in line with the sun. In fact, a number of astronomers were tracking another asteroid when the explosion occurred.
In several verses, the Bible talks about events occurring in the end times that could be interpreted as asteroids hitting the earth.
- In his description of the end-times, Jesus refers to “terrors and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:11 NASV). The Greek word for terror is ‘phobetron,’ which is where we get the English word phobia from. It means “terror, terrible sight, horror, fear.” What will be happening in the skies will cause a great fear among people on earth. In Matthew 24:29, Jesus also talked about stars falling from the sky.
- In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John’s vision of the end-times, there are several references to what could be interpreted as asteroid strikes. In opening of the sixth seal, Revelation 6:13, John saw the stars of heaven falling from the sky. He compared the hits to unripened figs slamming into the ground when a fig tree is rocked by a mighty wind. The description suggests multiple strikes in a short period of time. Since John was simply recording what he saw without really understanding what it was, some wonder if this might be a description of a nuclear ballistic attack. John added it would cause a great fear resulting in some people (including country leaders) hiding in caves (vs 15, 16). Is this a reference to the huge underground bunker carved underneath the Cheyenne mountain in Colorado during the Cold War where US leaders would hide during the threat of a nuclear strike? NORAD still uses it today, and many other countries have similar facilities.
- Two chapters later, Revelation 8:8, at the sounding of a second angelic trumpet, John saw what was clearly an asteroid as he describes it being “ablaze” and the size of a mountain. This one hits an ocean resulting in a massive kill off of sea life, turning a third of the ocean into blood. He said it destroyed many ships, undoubtedly from the massive tsunamis such a hit would cause.
- When a third angel sounded his trumpet (Revelation 8:11), John saw a great star, a blazing torch, hitting the earth. John called this one that hit land ‘wormwood’ because it caused a great bitterness in the waters of the earth. It is believed the word wormwood refers to a plant called Artemisia that produced a bitter green oil that people used to kill intestinal worms. Because the water became bitter, another possible explanation is that John was describing a nuclear blast. Of course, he wouldn’t know what it was and simply described its after effects the best way he could.