2012 DA14 Asteroid vs. Russia meteorite: Asteroid misses Earth, unlike meteor

CLEVELAND - The world is safe -- at least from one asteroid. A 150-foot cosmic rock hurtled safely past Earth on Friday.

It was the closest known flyby for a rock of its size, passing within 17,000 miles. That's closer than some satellites.

The flyby occurred just hours after a much smaller meteor exploded above Russia's Ural Mountains.  

Astronomers say the two events were coincidental, and the objects were traveling in opposite directions. At least one scientist called it an exciting day and "like a shooting gallery here."  

The asteroid was invisible to astronomers in the United States at the time of its closest approach on the opposite of the world. But in Australia, astronomers used binoculars and telescopes to watch the point of light speed across the clear night sky.

Both rocks are large and are (or at least before it hit Russia) cruising faster than 17,000 mph. Despite what these two rocks had in common, they are completely un-related. 

The first difference is their flight paths: 2012 DA14  is traveling from south to north in relation to our planet. In addition to that, it will not enter Earth's atmosphere. This is a major point. As soon as an asteroid enters our atmosphere, it becomes a meteor.

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At about 2:24 EST, 2012 DA14 was at its closest point to Earth, 17,150 miles away. That may seem like a huge distance but in all reality, it is extremely close. In fact, since the modern technology, this will be the closest any asteroid has gotten to us without hitting. 

To put 17,150 miles into perspective, our man-made satellites orbit Earth at 23,000 miles and the moon is at a whopping 238,900 miles away! This is why astronomers and space-lovers considered Friday's asteroid crossing their holy grail. Researchers got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collect data on a real space rock. 

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