Asteroid fly-by an opportunity for science

Feb. 15, 2013 at 8:06 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A small asteroid made a close fly-by of Earth Friday and is now moving away from our world, NASA said.

Near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 passed by the planet at approximately 2:25 p.m. EST Friday, putting it roughly 17,200 above the planet's surface, closer than some geostationary orbiting satellites.

Scientists' predictions that it would safely pass Earth and not represent a collision threat proved correct.

Skywatchers in Australia, Asia and Eastern Europe were able to spot the asteroid with the aid of a small telescope or binoculars, CNN reported.

The 150-foot object passed close enough to allow the opportunity to observe it closely and improve methods to forecast the orbits of other asteroids, scientists said.

Five hours before asteroid 2012 DA14 passed Earth, an unrelated small asteroid entered the atmosphere over Russia Friday, exploding in the air and crating a shock wave that injured about 1,000 people, most of whom were hit with flying glass as windows shattered from the blast.

Despite that event, the probability of an asteroid striking Earth still had to be considered remote, scientists said.

"There are lots of asteroids that we're watching that we haven't yet ruled out an Earth impact (for), but all of them have an impact probability that is very, very low," Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said

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