News Column

Asteroid 2011 MD Misses Earth by 7,456 Miles

June 28, 2011

Frank Walker, Marco Mierke and Pat Reber

Asteroid 2011 MD, an asteroid the size of one or two large passenger buses, passed just 12,000 kilometres (7,456 miles) from Earth on Monday, considerably nearer than the moon, which orbits at 380,000 kilometers (236,121 miles).

The asteroid, called 2011 MD, passed over the southern Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Antarctica at its closest approach, about 1714 GMT, National Geographic News service reported.

Earth's gravity field provided a sling-shot pivot for the space body, which is travelling again away from Earth on its wide orbit.

Earlier in the day, Fred Watson of the Australian Astronomical Observatory was confident that the asteroid would not enter Earth's atmosphere. He told ABC news that other asteroids pose a more real threat, such as Apophis, which is expected to come close to Earth in 2029.

The asteroid was travelling at an estimated 100,000 km per hour, but was still visible for some hobby astronomers for a short time.

It was first discovered last Wednesday by researchers in New Mexico from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They estimated its width between 6.3 and 14 metres (20.67 and 45.93 feet).

Such rock bodies pass this near to the Earth about every six years, NASA estimates.

Source: Copyright (c) 2011, dpa, Berlin.

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