Lehigh Valley

Asteroid comes close to earth

Asteroid comes close to earth

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - It was a close call for Earth Wednesday.

An asteroid whipped by our planet coming closer than the moon's orbit.

Astrophysicist Joshua Pepper says the newly discovered space rock is called '2014 DX 110.'

"It is about a 100-foot wide asteroid that's been circulating in the solar system for the past few billion years," the Lehigh University assistant professor explained.

The big hunk of rock flew between the moon and Earth at about 217,000 miles away.

"Which is pretty close for these kinds of objects," Pepper shared.

He says that if an asteroid this size were to strike the planet, it wouldn't be globally devastating, but it would do a lot of damage.

The local impact would have the energy of about one megaton of TNT, which is the equivalent of a very large nuclear weapon.

Last February a similarly sized asteroid entered Earth's atmosphere and exploded over Russia, releasing more energy than a large atomic bomb.

That's exactly why NASA keeps a close eye on asteroids and comets.

Through the Near-Earth Object Program, NASA has discovered nearly 11,000.

Dedicated teams of astronomers use telescopes to continuously scan the sky.

"We want to find these things well in advance and find them early in order to take any counter measures if need be," added Pepper.

Most asteroids are on the smaller side, but the big ones could be a huge threat to our planet.

NASA is working on ways to potentially deflect dangerous asteroids away from Earth.

"If you nudge it a little bit decades in advance, then by the time it actually gets close to the Earth it will fly wide by hundreds of thousands of miles," Pepper described.

Work these scientists hope will one day save us from major destruction.

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