By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer

BOSTON (CBS) – We had a close encounter with an asteroid Friday afternoon.

Sort of.

A 150-foot cosmic rock, known as 2012 DA14, passed within 17,000 miles of Earth around 2:25 p.m.

There was no chance that the asteroid would have hit the Earth, but it was still a remarkably close distance.

Check: NASA coverage of asteroid

(Image courtesy: NASA)

(Image courtesy: NASA)

In fact, it was closer than any other asteroid of that size since we started surveying the skies about 20 years ago.  It was even closer than some satellites.

Astronomer Ron Dantowitz of the Clay Center Observatory told WBZ-TV that if it had arrived just 15 minutes earlier, it would have been a direct hit with Earth.

So did anyone see it?

2012 DA14 was bright enough for your typical backyard telescope.  However, it’s moving at such a high speed only the most experienced amateur astronomers were able to catch a glimpse.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is relatively small compared to most asteroids, about the size of a gymnasium, 150 feet wide.

So even if it had been on a direct collision course with Earth it would not have been a life-altering event. Asteroids of similar size have struck Earth in the past and are responsible for some large craters like the ones in Arizona and Siberia.

Finally, you may have heard about a meteorite that struck Russia Friday morning.

While it seems like one heck of a coincidence, NASA said that it truly is not related to Asteroid 2012 DA14.

“The trajectory of the Russian Meteorite was significantly different than that of Asteroid 2012 DA14, making it a completely unrelated object. It was seen to pass from left to right in front of the rising sun, which means it was traveling from north to south. Asteroid DA14’s trajectory is in the opposite direction, from south to north.”

Both of these events should serve as a reminder of just how vulnerable our planet is, flying through space, being constantly bombarded by space rocks big and small.

While we have come a long way in observing near-Earth objects over the past 20 years, it is clear that much more research needs to be done.

Meteorologist Joe Joyce will be live at the Clay Center Observatory during tonight’s 5 and 6pm news where they will have their large telescope trained on Asteroid 2012 DA14, giving us all a front row seat, about as close as we want to get.

Joe Joyce explains Meteor vs. Asteroid

You can follow Terry on Twitter at @TerryWBZ.


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