On June 8th, 2014, an asteroid dubbed “The Beast” flew within 777,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers) of Earth. Spanning approximately 1,200 feet (370 m) wide and traveling at a speed of 31,000 mph (50,000 km/h), asteroid 2014 HQ124 is one of the biggest in recent history to have come this close to slamming into Earth.
Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and his team took the opportunity to capture a series of detailed images of The Beast by beaming a radio signal at the asteroid. These signals were then received by two radio antennas on the ground. Benner stated that “by itself, the Goldstone antenna can obtain images that show features as small as the width of a traffic lane on the highway.” Benner goes on to say that The Beast “may be a double object, or ‘contact binary,’ consisting of two objects that form a single asteroid with a lobed shape.”
No doubt, an asteroid of this size and construct would cause catastrophic damage to Earth. Judging by the following images, we should all take a moment to consider not only how fragile life here on Earth is, but also to appreciate how lucky we are to have been spared the possibility of mass destruction, or worse, extinction.