Doomsday fears vanish as giant asteroid buzzes past Earth 270,000 miles away

An artist's concept of a broken-up asteroid in an image provided by NASA.Reuters

Fears were raised as recently as last week that a 100-meter-wide asteroid could hit Earth, triggering doomsday.

However when the asteroid called 2015 HM10 made its closest approach to Earth on Tuesday, July 7, all such fears quickly vanished.

The asteroid was discovered only last April in Chile with the use of a four-meter telescope. On Tuesday, it came within 270,000 miles of our planet, or further away than the moon.

Although some people think this distance is already way too close to Earth, scientists were quick to dismiss fears that the asteroid could lead to an apocalypse.

"2015 HM10 is a fairly ordinary near-Earth object, making a fairly ordinary close approach," said Eric Christensen, who is part of the Catalina Sky Survey, a project funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to discover rocks floating close to the Earth.

In fact, about 100,000 similar objects in outer space orbiting the sun—particularly those coming from the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars—come at this same distance to the earth, he said. They reach this distance because they are pulled by the Earth's gravity, Christensen added.

Also, asteroids even the size of a car will disintegrate once they reach the Earth's atmosphere, resulting in a light show, he assured.

"People tend to focus on the spectacular effects of potential impacts without realising that large impacts are extremely low-probability events," Christensen said.

"I don't spend time worrying about damaging asteroid impacts, just like I don't waste time planning how to spend my hypothetical lottery winnings." he added.

So why did some people on the Internet fall prey into the hoax about a possible asteroid Armageddon?

Well, timing might have been the cause. Take note that the first ever Asteroid Day was observed in June 30 to raise awareness and preparedness for these objects, and some may have misinterpreted this as an indication of an approaching doomsday.