Asteroid 2014 RC buzzed by Earth dangerously close last weekend: What you should know


An asteroid dubbed the "Pitbull" passed by the Earth, coming closer to us than our own moon, but NASA says the close approach did not represent a threat.

At its closest approach the asteroid officially named 2014 RC was 21,126 miles from the earth's surface, just one-tenth of the distance from our world to the moon.

That closest approach, which happened around 2:18 ET Sunday afternoon, had the asteroid directly over New Zealand, astronomers say.

Although the flyby was considered as a "close call," the event isn't the closest encounter the Earth has had this year, they say.

In February of 2013, another asteroid, 2012 DA14, sped by the Earth at just 17,200 mile above our heads.

However, on the same day, another asteroid captured all the headlines, slamming into the Earth's atmosphere and exploding above the Russian City of Chelyabinsk.

The massive shock wave of the explosion shattered windows all across the city, injuring some 1,5000 people.

That asteroid was only slightly larger than 2014 RC, and its impact put the class of so called near-Earth objects, or NEOs, firmly in the public consciousness, and a lot of eyes will be turned to the skies as it passes.

Not that most people were able to observe Asteroid 2014 RC; the dim asteroid was not visible to the naked eye. However, people who used even small telescopes were able to spot it.

Webcasts were also been scheduled to give people a chance to join in the observation of the passing cosmic object.

Analysis of the asteroid's orbit shows this won't be its last visit to our neighborhood, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said.

"While 2014 RC will not impact Earth, its orbit will bring it back to our planet's neighborhood in the future," JPL officials said. "The asteroid's future motion will be closely monitored, but no future threatening Earth encounters have been identified."

2014 RC is just one of more than 10,000 near-Earth objects already located and identified within our solar system.

A number of survey programs, including NASA efforts, have been instituted to track NEOs that might present a risk of collision with the Earth.

The space agency, under a mandate from Congress, has catalogued all known asteroids at least a kilometer in diameter that might present a risk of catastrophic impacts with the earth.

Although 2014 RC presents no such risk, scientists still closely monitored its passing to gather information.

"While this celestial object does not appear to pose any threat to Earth or satellites, its close approach creates a unique opportunity for researchers to observe and learn more about asteroids," JPL officials said.

ⓒ 2018 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Real Time Analytics