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Near Miss Day

Near Miss Day commemorates the time when the 4581 Asclepius asteroid had a close call with hitting earth, passing by about 425,000 miles away. This may seem like a long distance, but in space distance, it is very close and missed striking the earth by about six hours. It was closest to earth between March 22 and 23, 1989, but was not discovered until March 31, by astronomers Henry E. Holt and Norman G. Thomas at the Palomar Observatory in California.

The asteroid, named after the Greek god of medicine, is about 300 meters wide and would have released energy comparable to a 600 megaton bomb—larger than any nuclear bomb ever created—if it would have hit earth. It would have left a crater many miles in diameter, and would have been capable of wiping out a large city. The probability that asteroids and meteorites will hit earth is measured by the Torino Scale and the Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale. Similar near misses happen every couple years.

How to Observe Near Miss Day

Today is a day to remember all the second chances you've been given after all the near misses you've had—whether they've been near misses of life and death, or of things less consequential. The day is also for learning more about astronomy. Pick up a book, watch a documentary, or gaze at the heavens with a telescope. You could even plan a trip to the Palomar Observatory to be at the place where 4581 Asclepius was discovered, and where it was found out that there had just been a near miss.


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