An asteroid with a width of four football fields just passed by Earth.
The space rock is known as 99942 Apophis. It got its name after the ancient Egyptian god of chaos.
The asteroid flew less than 10 million miles from our planet’s surface on Friday night at approximately 8:15 pm.
That is nearly 44 times the distance between our planet and the moon.
However, the next encounter with the space rock will be much closer, on April 13, 2029, when it will fly within 19,000 miles of Earth, right between the moon and Earth.
Scientists from NASA believe that it is the closest any asteroid of that size has come to our planet’s surface.
The upcoming approach will be close enough that the space rock may impact high-altitude communications satellites orbiting Earth.
Here is an animation that shows the distance between Earth and Apophis eight years from now:
Blue dots represent orbiting satellites. The pink dot is the International Space Station.
Unfortunately, Apophis wasn’t visible to the naked eye. Only those with telescopes with at least a foot-long diameter were able to observe it.
However, Rome’s Virtual Telescope Project offered an online viewing session at 7 pm ET for those curious but less equipped.
Apophis was discovered in 2004. It made the headlines back then because astronomers determined that there was a small chance it may hit Earth in 2029. However, NASA scientists have worked on that estimate.
Dave Tholen, a researcher from the University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy, who helped discover Apophis, stated:
“We have known for some time that an impact with Earth is not possible during the 2029 close approach.”