Asteroid makes close approach to Earth early Thursday


That's about a tenth of the distance between our planet and the Moon, so in astronomical terms, an extremely close encounter.

Michael Kelley, programme scientist and Nasa Headquarters lead for the TC4 observation campaign, said: "Scientists have always appreciated knowing when an asteroid will make a close approach to and safely pass the Earth because they can make preparations to collect data to characterise and learn as much as possible about it".

The size of a small house, NASA has been watching the asteroid named "2012 TC4" since it was first discovered on October 4, 2012, WXYZ reports.

The fly-by of the asteroid gave asteroid trackers around the world an opportunity to test their ability to operate as a coordinated worldwide asteroid warning network.

An asteroid the size of a house narrowly missed Earth.

NASA says it isn't aware of any asteroids that could pose a significant risk over the next 100 years.

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Yesterday's asteroid was discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) on Hawaii back in 2012.

The 30 metre-long asteroid flew past Earth at a distance of 27,300 miles - nearly as low as where man-made satellites sit in orbit.

"It's interesting to study such a small object, but it's also very appropriate, because we're more likely to see a small asteroid heading for Earth impact than a large one, simply because there are far more small ones than large ones", Chodas continued.

But according to tracking models, the asteroid's path will be altered by Earth's gravity in the future, and after a few more flybys, its trajectory could lead straight into Earth.

If a mid-sized or large asteroid did hit Earth, it could cause catastrophic damage to a populated area or even cause global mass extinction, Newsweek reported.

An artist's impression of an asteroid impacting Earth.