The mammoth asteroid set to fly by Earth last night just disappeared

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From Mia Misra

Last night, a giant asteroid was supposed to streak by the Earth, close enough for us to catch a glimpse as it zipped by. Except it never showed, and now astronomers say they have no idea just where the 900-foot asteroid has gone.

So, just how does one misplace an asteroid the size of three football fields? The most likely explanation is that its orbit was miscalculated. Even with its current whereabouts unknown, the near earth asteroid poses no present danger to Earth — in fact, if anything, its loss indicates that 2000 EM26 is probably further out in space that was originally thought.

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Still, the Slooh observatory is trying to track down the asteroid using robotic telescopes, and has also asked amateur astronomers to help out with the search. “We don’t have the authority to name the asteroid after [its finders],” the observatory said, “but we would if we could.”

Of course, if the incentive of not having an asteroid named after you fails to motivate, there’s also the added plus of knowing just where the giant space rock that was set to hurtle by our atmosphere has gotten off to. I know I’d probably sleep better.

Image: Artist impression of a rocky and water-rich asteroid being torn apart by the strong gravity of the white dwarf star GD 61. Similar objects in the Solar System likely delivered the bulk of water on Earth and represent the building blocks of the terrestrial planets. / Image copyright Mark A. Garlick, University of Warwick and University of Cambridge.

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