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Asteroid narrowly misses the Earth, NASA says

AN asteroid about the size of one that leveled more than 200,000 hectares of forest in Siberia a century ago just buzzed the Earth.

Asteroid 2009 DD45 missed the Earth by about 78,500 kilometers on Monday, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported.

That is just twice as high as the orbits of some telecommunications satellites and about a fifth of the distance to the moon.

"This was pretty darn close," said astronomer Timothy Spahr of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

But not as close as the tiny meteoroid 2004 FU162, which came within 6,500 kilometers in 2004.

This week's asteroid measured between 21 meters and 47 meters in diameter. The Planetary Society said that made it about the same size as the asteroid that exploded over Siberia in 1908.

Scientists at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia spotted 2009 DD45 and began tracking it in late February when it was about 1.6 million kilometers away.

Spahr said he knew within an hour of that discovery that it would pose no threat to the Earth.

The next time one of the known space rocks will get closer to the Earth will be in 2029 when a 270-meter asteroid called 99942 Apophis comes within 32,185 kilometers of our planet, said Donald Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Last year the asteroid 2008 TC3 harmlessly burned up in the Earth's atmosphere over Sudan in Africa 19 hours after it was discovered. It exploded tens of kilometers above the ground and lit up the sky like a full moon.


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