Asteroid Travels Past Earth at Distance Closer Than Moon

The distance an airplane covers going westbound from L.A. to Iraq is roughly the same distance an asteroid skid past Earth today.

Reaching its most proximate point to our mother planet at about 1 p.m. EST (1700 UTC), Asteroid 2011MD missed Earth by 7,600 miles, about 30 times closer to Earth than the moon.

Asteroid 2011 MD's TrajectoryImage: NASATrajectory of 2011 MD from the general direction of the Sun.

NASA previously had announced no probability for the 30-to-50 yard asteroid hitting Earth and added that due to its proximity, the bright rock could be seen with a modest telescope.

NASA noted that asteroids of similar sizes pass Earth every six years on average.

Today was a close encounter but not the closest recorded.

According to NASA, an asteroid drift past Earth at a record 3,400 miles, or the distance between L.A and Bogota, Colombia, on Feb. 4. Called Asteroid 2011CQ1, it was one of the closest ever to miss Earth and it was discovered by NASA only 14 hours prior to passing Earth.

The next notable asteroid to pass Earth will be Asteroid 2005 YU55, a massive rock measuring 400 meters in diameter. This asteroid is expected to make its closest encounter to the planet on Nov 8 at roughly 200,000 miles, or 0.85 the lunar distance.