There is nothing more terrifying than an asteroid heading towards Earth. If that were to happen, there would be nothing we could do about it. In the movies, there is always some sort of plan that saves humanity, like in Armageddon where drillers are sent to destroy the asteroid to drill a bomb into it.
Another common things you see in asteroid movie is that the government doesn't want to let the public know about their impending doom as to not create world-wide panic. We'd like to think that our government wouldn't do that to us, but if an asteroid was coming for us, it might be the best decision to keep it from us.
One thing we don't think about is that the government would get it wrong. That happened recently when the smart people at NASA were certain an asteroid wasn't going to hit the Earth... the only problem is that the asteroid ended up hitting Earth. Let's find out what exactly went wrong with NASA's prediction.
You would think that NASA has a good indication of what's going on in the skies, however, that's not exactly the case, as is evident by this story. Several months ago an asteroid traveled at 14.9 kilometers per second towards Earth and NASA had no idea. The asteroids name is 2019 MO. It wasn't a big, Armageddon-level asteroid. In fact, it was only three meters wide. Luckily it burned up in the atmosphere before it could do any damage on Earth, however, it was a wake-up call for NASA.
Regarding the incident, NASA said, "When first spotted, 2019 MO was about 310,000 miles (500,000 kilometers) from Earth - farther out than the orbit of our Moon. This was roughly the equivalent of spotting something the size of a gnat from a distance of 310 miles (500 kilometres)."
The main reason NASA didn't see this asteroid coming, according to David Farnocchia, a scientist at NASA, is because they don't usually track asteroids that small. Because it was so small, they had no clue where it was going to go. "The body had been spotted only four times in just under half an hour, which was not enough information to determine where the object came from or exactly where it was headed."
This isn't just a problem for NASA. The European Space Agency has also had a history of missing small asteroids, like the one in July that skimmed the Earth's atmosphere, unbeknownst to the ESA. On the one hand, there is no danger to Earth, but on the other hand, these asteroids could destroy satellites or space stations. That could be a potential disaster.
The asteroid that the ESA missed is known as 2019 OK. It had been observed, however, it was not classified as being near-Earth. Regarding the matter, the ESA said, "We know of, and are tracking, thousands of asteroids in the Solar System, so why was this one discovered so late? Unfortunately, there is currently no single obvious reason, apart from its slow motion in the sky before close approach. 2019 OK also travels in a highly elliptical orbit, taking it from within the orbit of Venus to well beyond that of Mars. This means the time it spends near Earth and is detectable with current telescope capabilities is relatively short.
Stories like this are a reminder that even with all the technology in the world, it is impossible to track everything that is going on in space.