An asteroid half the size of a US football field passed within an astronomical hair’s breadth of Earth Friday in the closest such encounter in a century.
The asteroid, called 2012 DA14, came within 17,200 miles (27,350 kilometers) of Earth at 2:25 p.m. Washington time, over Indonesia. Telescope images from western Australia, broadcast on NASA Television, showed the asteroid as a white speck against the blackness of space.
While DA14 didn’t hit the planet, astronauts and interplanetary evangelists say its fly-by -- and a meteor strike in Russia early Friday -- serve as evidence that monitoring for risks from space objects must be increased.
“If this asteroid were to hit London, the entire metropolitan area would be gone,” Sergio Camacho, head of the effort at the Vienna-based UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, said of DA14 in an interview.