A tiny space rock barely missed Earth on Thursday in the third of back-to-back-to-back asteroid flybys over the past 24 hours, coming six times closer than the orbit of the moon.
The 25-foot-wide (8-meter-wide) asteroid 2014 EC came within 38,300 miles (61,600 kilometers) of our planet at 4:21 p.m. ET, NASA officials said. For comparison, the moon orbits Earth at an average distance of 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers).
"This is not an unusual event," Paul Chodas, a senior scientist in the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. "Objects of this size pass this close to the Earth several times every year." [Asteroid Quiz: Test Your Space Rock Smarts]
P. Carril / ESA
An artist's conception shows an asteroid passing by Earth.
But Thursday's close encounter was special in one sense — it came just one day after two other space-rock flybys. On Wednesday afternoon, the 100-foot-wide (30-meter-wide) asteroid 2014 DX110 zipped within 217,000 miles (350,000 kilometers) of Earth.
"A third asteroid, 2014 EF, which is closer in size to today's 2014 EC, passed Earth at about 7 p.m. PST (10 p.m. EST) Wednesday, with closest approach about twice as far from Earth as 2014 EC's closest approach," NASA officials wrote in an update Thursday.
There was never any danger of an impact by the asteroids during these flybys, researchers said.
2014 EC was just discovered on Tuesday night. It's about half as wide as the space rock that exploded without warning over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013.
Virtual Telescope Project 2.0 via YouTube
Asteroid 2014 DX110 is indicated within the red circle in this picture from the Virtual Telescope Project 2.0.
— Mike Wall, Space.com
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First published March 6 2014, 9:59 AM