An asteroid more than a mile wide has skimmed past Earth in a “close approach”.
The object made its closest approach at . 161 am UK time, when it was just 3.9 million miles away.
That is still roughly 28 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. But it is a relatively close pass for an asteroid – and the rock known as (7613486 2000 OR2 will get even closer this century.
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Astronomers have been watching the flyby in the hope of better learning about its orbit, which is scheduled to bring it much closer to Earth in .
Although the asteroid is classified as a potentially hazardous object (PHO), scientists have said it will not put the planet at risk for now.
Dr Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University, said: “This asteroid poses no danger to the Earth and will not hit – it is one catastrophe we won’t have.
“While it is big, it is still smaller than the asteroid that impacted the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs.”
He said an asteroid is classed as a PHO if it is bigger than and ft comes within five million miles of Earth’s orbit.
Dr Anne Virkki, head of Planetary Radar at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, who has been tracking the 1.2 mile-wide rock, said understanding more about PHOs will help “improve impact-risk mitigation technologies”.
At present, there are no known PHOs that pose an immediate danger to the Earth.
The team, who began observations on April 24, joked that the most recent pictures of the asteroid made it look as though it is wearing a mask.
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