It turns out that right while I was putting out last week’s diary post – shortly after 4 PM PDT – a tiny asteroid came within 7500 miles of the Earth. I was busy with the earth – how many big earthquakes in July? – … but the real news was overhead.
Edit: Oops. The near miss was on Monday, not Saturday. Somehow when I read it Monday, I thought it had happened two days earlier. End edit.
To put that in context, the international space station is 220 miles up, and a geosynchronous satellite orbits at about 22,200 miles. The fox was right in the chicken coop.
It was small enough – somewhere between 16 and 66 feet across – that if it had entered the atmosphere, it would have either burned up completely or been very small when it hit the surface. No real problem, unless it happened to hit a person.
As it happens, this is not the closest known miss to date; that happened on February 4 this year, when asteroid 2011 CQ1 passed within 3400 miles. It was all of 4 feet wide, so it wouldn’t have stood a chance of reaching the surface.