An asteroid the size of a school bus, HL129, came dangerously close to the Earth on 3 May. If the speed space traveler had struck the Earth, it could have devastated a small city.
The asteroid passed a mere 186,000 miles from our home world, less than the mileage during the lifetime of a normal car.
This is nearly 53,000 miles closer than the average distance between the Earth and moon. Closest approach occurred at 4:13 a.m. EDT.
Astronomers estimate HL129 measures between 18 and 42 feet across. At the time, the asteroid zipped past the Earth, it was traveling well over 14,000 miles per hour.
Like many close shaves of Earth by asteroids, the hazardous body was spotted just days before its passage of our home world. Astronomers at the Mount Lemmon Survey Team first spotted the speedy boulder on 28 April.
"Actually, a small asteroid safely passed Earth about 8/10 the distance of our moon. It's not all that uncommon," NASA's Asteroid Watch program tweeted, in response to a question about upcoming near-misses by the rocky bodies.
A meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on 15 February 2013, sending 1,100 people to the hospital, and causing significant property damage. The body responsible for that event was more than 60 feet across. An asteroid called 2014 DX110, measuring 98 feet in diameter, flew within 216,000 miles of our home world in March. Another giant asteroid, estimated to be 885 feet in diameter, whizzed past Earth in February.
"As of May 03, 2014, 11005 Near-Earth objects have been discovered. Some 862 of these NEOs are asteroids with a diameter of approximately [sixth-tenths of a mile] or larger. Also, 1469 of these NEOs have been classified as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs)," NASA officials wrote on their Web site.
An asteroid over 425 feet across, called 2007 VK184, has recently been eliminated as a threat to Earth anytime over the next 100 years, according to NASA. Computer models predict the meteor has a 1-in-1800 chance of impacting with the Earth in June 2048. Of all known asteroids, this one remains the most likely to collide with our home world.
"Asteroid 2007 VK184 is another case study on how our system works. We find them, track them, learn as much as we can about those found to be of special interest... and we predict and monitor their movement in the inner solar system until we know they are of no more concern," Lindley Johnson of NASA said in a news release.