Asteroid Skims Past Earth In Record Near-Miss

A 150ft-long asteroid has skimmed harmlessly past the Earth - closer than any other near-miss on record.

The huge chunk of rock was travelling closer to the planet than many satellites when it reached its nearest point at 7.25pm, shooting across the sky at a speed of 17,640mph (28,388kph).

But while it may have been visible as a tiny white dot to those using binoculars - weather permitting - scientists had said there was no chance it would hit Earth.

It had been expected come as close as 17,200 miles (27,681km) away, a close shave in astronomical terms.

People gathered across the UK with binoculars and telescopes to catch a glimpse of the object, called 2012 DA14, which is now moving away from the planet.

The European Space Agency said the asteroid is not linked to the meteorite that hit Russia earlier on Friday, with scientists calling it a coincidence.

At 143,000 tons, the "city killer" DA14 is nowhere near as big as the six-mile-wide (10km) object widely believed to have brought about the extinction of the dinosaurs, but it is large enough to have wiped out an area the size of London had it struck.

Astronomers in the US were unable to see it at its closest approach, but colleagues in Australia watched the point of light speed across a clear night sky.

There was a remote possibility that it could collide with one of more than 100 telecommunication and weather satellites in fixed orbits. It was expected to have moved beyond Earth's ring of satellites within hours.

Experts have been closely tracking the asteroid since its discovery a year ago.

Astronomer and asteroid expert Dr Dan Brown, from Nottingham Trent University , said star-gazers would have seen it pass from the constellation Leo to roughly the Plough, "more or less from anywhere in the UK", and that it would have been bright for an hour.

DA14 belongs to a 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.

Scientists at Nasa's Near-Earth Object programme at California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory estimate an object of this size makes a close approach such as this every 40 years.

Nasa  live-streamed the flight path of the asteroid from various observatories and satellites on its website.

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