Astronomers say that a space rock that has only recently been discovered flew past Earth earlier today, May 29, at 0700 UTC (03:00 am EDT), without posing any kind of dangers to the planet. The small asteroid passed within 14,440 kilometers (8,950 miles) of the surface.
This is one of the ten closest asteroid approaches ever recorded by modern astronomers. However, experts underline that the object's trajectory was calculated in advanced, and deemed to be harmless.
The small rock is called 2012 KT42, and was discovered by astronomer Alex Gibbs, who works for the Catalina Sky Survey. He first identified the asteroid using a 1.5-meter telescope on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona, and immediately cataloged it as a near-Earth object.
According to estimates, 2012 KT42 is between 3 and 10 meters (10 to 33 feet) in diameter. If its trajectory took it on a collision course to Earth, the object would have most likely burned up in our planet's atmosphere, or detonated high above the surface.
The fragments that would have made contact with the surface would have posed no considerable threat to lives or property. After making its closest approach to Earth, the asteroid passed in front of the Sun, at 1010 UTC (0710 am EDT).
Near-Earth objects (NEO) are a special class of bodies, including asteroids and meteorites, whose defining characteristic is that they are located close to our planet. Most of them are not on a collision course, while others have some chances of hitting Earth at one point in time.
Some NEO have elongated orbits, traveling great distances through the solar system and passing close to Earth once every few decades or centuries. All objects in this category are located between 0.983 and 1.3 astronomical units from the Sun.
An AU is the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun, or 157 million kilometers (93 million miles). A distinct subset of NEO is the group of potentially hazardous objects (PHO), which are large enough to cause some damage to our planet if they hit it.
In the future, NEO may become a source of platinum and water-derived products (hydrogen and oxygen) for both businesses on Earth and spacecraft making detours before heading out into the solar system, Universe Today