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'Potentially hazardous' asteroid makes closest pass to Earth in more than century

UPI
An illustration shows the Psyche asteroid, which measures 173 miles across and which is the target of a NASA probe landing in 2029. NASA has identified about 25,000 potentially hazardous asteroids, although most are not as large as 2008 OS7, which passed by the Earth Friday. Image courtesy of NASA

Feb. 2 (UPI) -- A football field-sized asteroid whizzed by the Earth Friday, making its closest pass in more than a century.

The Virtual Telescope Project captured a live stream of the historic astronomical event at about 1 p.m. EST Friday. While the asteroid passed by the Earth from 1.7 million miles away -- about seven times the distance from Earth to the moon -- it is still a close shave from a cosmic perspective.

Officials have said the asteroid will not make it this close to Earth again for another 200 years.

The asteroid, named 2008 OS7, measures just under 900 feet across and travels through space at nearly 41,000 mph. While NASA did not register the "potentially hazardous" astral body as a direct threat to Earth, it is large enough to wipe out an area the size of New York City.

2008 OS7 was one of four near-Earth asteroids NASA predicted would fly by the planet on Friday, but the other three were much smaller and farther away.

The second largest, named 2024 BP1, is just 130 feet across -- roughly the size of an airplane -- and was expected to pass Earth at just over 2 million miles away.

2008 OS7 is 70 times smaller than the "planet killer" Vredefort meteor, the largest space rock known to have ever hit Earth.

Based on the size of the Vredefort crater in South Africa, researchers estimated the asteroid measured 12.4 and 15.5 miles across.

Asteroid study is a primary pursuit for NASA scientists.

In October, NASA launched a probe to study the large asteroid Psyche, hoping to gain insight into the creation and composition of Earth and similar planets.

The mission is focused on the Psyche asteroid in the solar system's asteroid belt, which is located between Mars and Jupiter.

NASA has said it hopes the mission will offer information about the building blocks of planets like ours because the composition of the Psyche asteroid could be similar to the composition of the Earth's metal core.

It is scheduled to arrive at the asteroid in 2029.