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Asteroid hurtles past Earth in "close call"

The asteroid, a chunk of space rock named 2011 MD, passed between the Earth and the moon's orbit.

Asteroid buzzes earth 27 06 11Enlarge
A mosaic image of asteroid Eros at it's north pole, taken by the robotic NEAR Shoemaker space probe on February 14, 2000 immediately after the spacecraft's insertion into orbit. (NASA/Newsmakers/Courtesy)

An asteroid the size of a small house buzzed the Earth on Monday, passing within 7,600 miles above our planet’s surface with its closest approach over the southern Atlantic Ocean.

The asteroid named 2011 MD flew between Earth and the moon's orbit, considered a close shave. It passed the Earth at around 9:30 am EDT.

The space rock's path made it an "intruder" in astronomy terms, the Guardian reports. It was expected to enter the area around our planet known as the Hill sphere, where Earth's gravitational pull is the dominant force on other objects, altering the asteroid’s trajectory.

“In the vastness of space of the inner the solar system, this is considered a really close call — less than about 3 percent of the distance between Earth and the moon and visible even with a small telescope,” according to the Washington Post.

But no help from Bruce Willis was required to save the planet.

Scientists at NASA’s Asteroid Watch program had said there was no danger of the asteroid hitting Earth.

In February, a smaller asteroid, 2011 CQ1, came within 3,405 miles of the Earth — a record for the closest encounter.

The latest asteroid is a chunk of space rock up to 60 feet long that scientists say was smashed off a much larger asteroid, and was bright enough to be seen by medium-sized telescopes.

It was discovered this week by telescopes in New Mexico, the Associated Press reports.

 


 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business-tech/science/110627/asteroid-passes-earth-monday-2011-md-space-rock