An asteroid compared in size to an aircraft carrier and the Rose Bowl Stadium has passed within 201,000 miles of Earth — slightly closer than the moon's orbit — according to NASA.
The last time a space rock this large came as close to Earth was in 1976, although astronomers did not know about the flyby at the time. The next known approach of an asteroid this size will be in 2028.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) snapped an image of the 1,300-foot-wide asteroid on Nov. 7 at 11:45 a.m. and released this video.
The video — created from radar data collected Monday by the 230-foot-wide Deep Space Network dish in the Mojave Desert outside Barstow — reveals crags and peaks on the asteroid as it flies through space.
Fox News — which compared the size of the asteroid to the Rose Bowl Stadium — has cited Russian scientists as warning that Earth's gravitation pull could change the asteroid's path, and set it on a collision course with our planet, hitting with the force of "100,000 Hiroshima bombs":
However, the JPL says it has been able to plot the asteroid's course for the next 64 years, and:
At the point of closest approach, it will be no closer than 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers) as measured from the center of Earth, or about 0.85 times the distance from the moon to Earth. The gravitational influence of the asteroid will have no detectable effect on Earth, including tides and tectonic plates. Although the asteroid is in an orbit that regularly brings it to the vicinity of Earth, Venus and Mars, the 2011 encounter with Earth is the closest it has come for at least the last 200 years.
"We know the orbit extremely well," the LA Times quotes Robert S. McMillan, who leads the University of Arizona Spacewatch Project and discovered the asteroid in December 2005, as saying. “We know it’s not going to hit the Earth."
But, he warned, NASA and other scientists will have to keep an eye on the asteroid because its course after 2075 cannot be determined reliably – even with all the new research.