Bruce Willis, your services won’t be needed – this time.
An asteroid zoomed by Earth early this morning, zipping between our planet and the moon's orbit, and another is set to rocket past even closer early this evening, according to NASA.
Neither planetoid will hit Earth, officials at the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge determined Sunday, passing within about 50,000 to 150,000 miles.
“It happens a few times a year that they’ll come close,” said Tim Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center. “When they come closer than the moon, we get a little interested in them.”
The Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., spotted the celestial wanderers Sunday morning, and officials immediately forwarded the observations north to Cambridge, Spahr said. The Minor Planet Center determined “within minutes” that the asteroids poised no threat, he said.
Asteroid 2010 RX30, which passed over the Earth south of Japan around 6 a.m. this morning, is estimated to be 32 to 65 feet in diameter, and 2010 RF12, which will reach its closest point to Earth above Antarctica a little past 5 p.m. tonight, is about 20 to 46 feet in diameter, according to NASA. Both should be visible with amateur telescopes.
Asteroids very rarely enter the Earth’s atmosphere, and impacts with large asteroids are even rarer, Spahr said. The last may have been more than a century ago when a fragment of some object exploded about 5 miles above Siberia, Russia in 1908, flattening trees and sending shock waves through the area.
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