Astronomers study asteroid nearing Earth

Jan. 24, 2008 at 3:06 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- An asteroid believed about 500 feet to 2,000 feet in size is being closely monitored by the U.S. space agency as it approaches Earth for a Tuesday fly-by.

Asteroid 2007 TU24 is expected to be about 334,000 miles from Earth at 3:33 a.m. Jan. 29 and should be observable by amateur astronomers with modest-sized telescopes, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

The asteroid was discovered by the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey Oct. 11. Scientists at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have determined there is no possibility of an impact with Earth in the foreseeable future.

"This will be the closest approach by a known asteroid of this size or larger until 2027," said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near Earth Object Program Office. "As its closest approach is about one-and-a-half times the distance of Earth to the moon, there is no reason for concern. On the contrary, Mother Nature is providing us an excellent opportunity to perform scientific observations."

NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to the planet.

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