That asteroid did kinda hit the Earth after all! Maybe.

Remember that asteroid that was supposed to pass harmlessly by the Earth on Sunday? Well, things didn't go exactly as planned...

Apparently, a meteor hit Nicaragua late Saturday night, forming a 12 meter wide crater. This would be a small chunk to make a crater that little. It has not been confirmed yet, but there is a strong possibility that this meteor was associated with 2014 RC. NPR quotes AP which quotes a Nicaraguan government official as saying the meteor "appears to have come off an asteroid that was passing close to Earth." NPR also quotes the BBC which quotes another astronomer: "Astronomer Humberto Saballos said the meteorite could have broken off from the 2014RC asteroid which passed Earth at the same time."

The event was caught on a security cam*:

I await further analysis and consideration. It could be a coincidence. Or perhaps this somewhat larger asteroid, 2014 RC, was traveling in a pack. They are known to do that. If so, "coming off" 2014 RC may be too vague a statement. Perhaps it came off a gazillion years ago. Or perhaps a handful of chunks were traveling together because the were mutually attracted in antiquity (via gravity).

*If you go to that link you will learn that the Earth is doomed because we are about to be rained down upon by a large number of asteroids. But be careful, take it with a grain of salt. Phil Plait at Slate wrote a post that discusses this: No, We’re Not Facing an Onslaught of Asteroid Impacts. This rumor comes from the same source that told us that the "supermoon" was going to kill everyone (it did not).

There is an asteroid out there known as 2014 NZ64 that is at the root of that story. It was just discovered. The asteroid is expected to pass by the earth 399 times between 2017 and 2113, however, the asteroid's exact track and location is unclear because it was observed for too short of time. The best estimate at the time, though, is that 2014 NZ64 has a very low probability of hitting the earth ever, and pretty much no chance in the nearish future. The 399 measured future passes sum to an impact probability of 0.0000021. Just out of curiosity I'd like to know the estimated probability of something else happening to this asteroid, like it hitting the moon or another asteroid or something. Probably also low.

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I don't understand how there can be more than 4 passes per year. What sort of orbit does that? On the bright side, i suppose we will have many opportunities to observe it and refine the predictions.

By David Evans (not verified) on 08 Sep 2014 #permalink

David, if the asteroid is in a more elliptical orbit than the Earth, but with a period of about a year, then it would sort of "cross" the Earth's orbit 4 times a year. This is the only possible thing they could be talking about, although on most of these passes, the asteroid would not actually be anywhere near the Earth itself.

By CherryBombSim (not verified) on 13 Sep 2014 #permalink