New York, June 16 (): A massive asteroid “2012 LZ1” about 700 metres wide flew past Earth by just 5.3 million kilometres early Friday. It was discovered only on June 10-11, 2012 by Australian astronomer Robert H. McNaught and his colleagues at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia, which is just four days before its nearest approach point to the earth.
Earlier, in a statement released Thursday, NASA officials said that the gigantic asteroid is one of the biggest to come near Earth, saying it will be watched closely by astronomers around the world.
The rock which is considered hazardous came within 3.3 million miles (5.3 million kilometers) of the earth during its nearby approach at 8 p.m. EDT on June 14 Friday. Since that’s about 14 times the distance between the Earth and the moon, the asteroid was never close enough to threaten Earth, or to be seen by most backyard sky watchers.
The Slooh Space Camera had shown live footage of the pass-by over the internet. The broadcast views the newly discovered “2012 LZ1” asteroid from an observatory at the Canary Islands, in the west coast of Africa.
According to NASA, a near-Earth asteroid is an asteroid that has been “nudged by the gravitational force of attraction of nearby planets into orbits that permit them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.” The trajectory puts the asteroid outside of the orbit of the moon, which is seen as a key point of reference for asteroid hunters searching for threats to Earth.
The next pass-by for 2012 LZ1 will be 2016 on July 27 with “no possibility” of collision with the Earth or Moon since it will be 4.6 million miles from the Earth.
Over its 4.5 billion-year history, the Earth has been hit by many asteroids repeatedly. The dinosaurs are believed to have wiped out by a 6-mile-wide (10-km) space rock that crashed into Earth 65 million years ago.
Astronomers have discovered roughly 9,000 near-Earth asteroids to date, but they think many more are out there.