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Asteroid DA14 misses Earth, unlike meteor

February 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A 150-foot asteroid hurtled past Earth on Friday, making the closest flyby for a rock of its size.

In a chilling coincidence, a meteor exploded above Russia just hours before the asteroid zoomed past the planet.

NASA and other scientists insist the meteor had nothing to do with the asteroid since they appeared to be traveling in opposite directions. The asteroid is much larger and it missed Earth by an estimated 17,150 miles.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 was too small to see with the naked eye even at its closest approach, which happened at around 2:25 p.m. ET, over the Indian Ocean near Sumatra.

The best viewing locations, with binoculars and telescopes, were in Asia, Australia and eastern Europe. Even there, all anyone could see was a pinpoint of light as the asteroid zoomed by at 17,400 mph.

Compared to other asteroids, DA14 is fairly small but if it struck, the rock could have done immense damage, given its 143,000-ton heft, releasing the energy equivalent of 2.4 million tons of TNT and wiping out 750 square miles.

By comparison, the meteor that emitted sonic blasts in Russia, shattered windows and injured hundreds weighed an estimated 10 tons.

NASA noted on its website that the path of the meteor was quite different than that of the asteroid, making the two objects "completely unrelated." The meteor seemed to be traveling from north to south, while the asteroid passed Earth from south to north - in the opposite direction.

Scientists at NASA's Near-Earth Object program at California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory estimate that an object of this size makes a close approach like this every 40 years. The likelihood of a strike is every 1,200 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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