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Asteroid 2012 DA14 Passes By Earth Closer Than Many Satellites

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An 150-metre wide asteroid has passed by Earth just 27,700km (17,200 miles) closer than many communication satellites, and just one tenth the distance between the Moon and Earth.

The flyby of 2012 DA14 was the closest-ever approach to Earth by an object this large, passing at 18,641 mph, eight times the speed of a bullet.

nasa asteroid

A simulation of 2012 DA14 by Nasa. The 150-foot object passed within 17,200 miles of the Earth.

And after a meteor struck eastern Russia earlier on Friday, injuring as many as 1000 people and resulting in spectacular YouTube footage, tensions were high over fears that researchers calculations might have been incorrect.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is as big as an Olympic swimming pool and could destroy a site as large as London if it struck a direct hit.

However the space rock flew by harmlessly, at its closest to Earth at 7.25pm. Keen astronomers viewed the asteroid through binoculars as it passed by, appearing simply as pinpoint of light, darting across the sky.

An animated image of the asteroid was captured by the Faulkes Telescope South in Siding Springs, Australia:

A14 belongs to dangerous family of near-Earth objects (NEOs) that are small enough to be missed but large enough to cause serious damage.

It was detected in February last year by La Sagra Observatory in southern Spain as it fell under the spotlight of the Sun's rays.

READ MORE: What DA14 'Would See' As It Passes By Earth

Prior to the flyby astronomer and asteroid expert Dr Dan Brown, from Nottingham Trent University, said the asteroid will fly inside the orbits of high geostationary satellites some 22,000 miles (35,406km) above the Earth.

"These are the satellites that provide us with telecommunications and weather forecasts," said Dr Brown.

"There are loads of them but you're talking about a very big area. It would be very unlucky if a satellite was hit. The asteroid is more likely to hit some space junk, but most of this is only about a centimetre across and the impact won't even be noticed."

A future mission planned by the American space agency Nasa, called Dart, will fire a probe into an asteroid to see if it can be moved. However, this may not be for another 10 or 20 years, said Dr Brown.

Meanwhile astronomers are currently tracking up to 400 NEOs that, like DA14, have been categorised as a potential threat. While a number are about the same size as DA14 "there will also be some considerably larger," Dr Brown added.

The American space agency Nasa launched its NEO programme 15 years ago with the aim of finding all "extinction event" asteroids and comets 0.62 miles (1km) across and larger. Later, it started focusing on smaller objects.

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