The meteor is passing between the moon and the Earth very soon, one of many close encounters just this year.
A huge piece of space rock will pass frighteningly close to the Earth, but fortunately it poses no threat to out planet. However, it is the 17th time that an asteroid has come between the Earth and the moon’s orbit just this year, with asteroid 2018 DU expected to come within 175,000 miles from the Earth Feb. 25.
The asteroid was found thanks to the Virtual Telescope Project, and it is about 10 meters in width, which certainly would not make it large enough to wipe out life on Earth but could cause some significant damage since it is not much smaller than the Chelyabinsk meteor.
“The telescope tracked the apparent motion of the asteroid, this is why stars leave long trails, while the asteroid looks like a sharp dot of light in the center of the image,” according to the VTP website. “At the imaging time, asteroid 2018 DU was at about 315.000 km from the Earth, closer than our Moon, and it was approaching us. This ~10 meters large asteroid will reach its minimum distance (284.000 km) from us on 25 Feb. 2018, at 18:22 UTC.”
The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia on near-Earth objects.
A near-Earth object (NEO) is any small Solar System body whose orbit can bring it into proximity with Earth. By definition, a Solar System body is a NEO if its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) is less than 1.3 astronomical unit (AU). If a NEO’s orbit crosses that of the Earth’s and the object is larger than 140 meters (m) across, it is considered a potentially hazardous object (PHO). Most known PHOs and NEOs are asteroids.
Known NEOs include more than seventeen thousand near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), more than one hundred near-Earth comets (NECs), and a number of solar-orbiting spacecraft and meteoroids, large enough to be tracked in space before striking the Earth. It is now widely accepted that collisions in the past have had a significant role in shaping the geological and biological history of the Earth. NEOs have become of increased interest since the 1980s because of increased awareness of the potential danger some of the asteroids or comets pose, and methods of mitigation are being researched.
Based on the orbit calculations of NEOs, the risk of future impacts is assessed on two scales, the Torino scale and the more complex Palermo scale, both of which rate a risk of any significance with values above 0. Some NEOs have had positive initial Torino or Palermo scale ratings after their discovery, but as of January 2018, more precise calculations based on subsequent observations led to a reduction of the rating to or below 0 in all cases.
The United States, European Union, and other nations are currently scanning for NEOs in an effort called Spaceguard. In the United States and since 1998, NASA has a congressional mandate to catalogue all NEOs that are at least 1 kilometer (km) wide, as the impact of such an object would be globally catastrophic. In 2006, it was estimated that only 80% of the mandated objects had been found. By 2011, NASA estimated that 93% of NEAs larger than 1 km have been found. As of February 5, 2018, 886 NEAs larger than 1 km have been discovered, or 96% of an estimated total of about 920.
The inventory is much less complete for smaller objects, which still have potential for large scale, though not global, damage. To improve on that, NASA’s Spaceguard mandate was extended in 2005 to objects at least 140 meters in diameter, and since 2016, NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office aims to track NEOs larger than 30 to 50 meters in diameter.
Due to their Earth-like orbits and low surface gravity, some NEOs can be approached by spacecraft with a relatively low energy (and thus fuel) expenditure. Since the 1970s, both manned and unmanned missions have been proposed. As of January 2018, three near-Earth asteroids have been visited by spacecraft, and two more are en route for future rendezvous. Plans to mine NEAs commercially have been picked up by a private company.