LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Professional and amateur astronomers took their best look at a huge asteroid as it zoomed past Earth on Tuesday at a little more than half a million kilometers distance, NASA said.
"I can confirm it came the closest to Earth ... and it's on its way, away from earth," D.C. Agle, a spokesman for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told AFP after the asteroid 2007 TU24 flew by at 0530 GMT.
Agle said Earth was never in danger of being struck by the asteroid of roughly 250 meters (yards) in diameter as it passed within 538,000 kilometers (334,000 miles) of our planet, or 1.4 times the Moon's distance from Earth.
If ever an object of that size should strike our planet, it would inflict devastating regional damage, NASA said.
The asteroid's fly-by "is the closest until at least the end of the next century," JPL senior astronomer Steve Ostro said in a statement. "It is also the asteroid's closest Earth approach for more than 2,000 years."
For a brief period, the asteroid was visible in dark and clear skies with amateur telescopes of three inches (7.5 centimeters) or larger, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.
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