Tags: asteroid | fly-by | earth

Asteroid Fly-By: Rock Size of 3 Football Fields Zooms Past Earth

Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014 02:07 PM

By Alexandra Ward

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A massive asteroid estimated to be the size of three football fields zoomed past Earth this week and eager stargazers were able to catch the fly-by live via a webcast.

Near-Earth asteroid 2000 EM26, which at 8.8 lunar distances from Earth posed no threat of impact, zipped by the Blue Planet Monday night at a staggering 27,000 mph, according to Space.com. The fly-by was captured on the Slooh Space Camera and broadcast live on the telescope service's website.

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"We continue to discover these potentially hazardous asteroids — sometimes only days before they make their close approaches to Earth," Paul Cox, Slooh's technical and research director, said in a statement. "Slooh's asteroid research campaign is gathering momentum with Slooh members using the Slooh robotic telescopes to monitor this huge population of potentially hazardous space rocks. We need to find them before they find us."

Though asteroid 2000 EM26 was never on course to collide with Earth, researchers are always sure to closely track any near-Earth objects (NEOs). After all, it was just last year that a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring more than 1,100 people.

"On a practical level, a previously unknown, undiscovered asteroid seems to hit our planet and cause damage or injury once a century or so, as we witnessed on June 20, 1908, and February 15, 2013," Slooh astronomer Bob Berman said in a statement. "Every few centuries, an even more massive asteroid strikes us — fortunately usually impacting in an ocean or wasteland such an Antarctica. But the ongoing threat, and the fact that biosphere-altering events remain a real if small annual possibility, suggests that discovering and tracking all NEOs, as well as setting up contingency plans for deflecting them on short notice should the need arise, would be a wise use of resources."

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