Small asteroid swings harmlessly past Earth

Trajectory of 2011 MD projected onto the Earth's orbital plane. Note from this viewing angle, the asteroid passes underneath the Earth. (NASA)

June 27, 2011 6:58:03 PM PDT
An asteroid the size of a tour bus has zipped harmlessly past Earth.

The space rock flew 7,600 miles above the Earth's surface. It sailed high above the southern Atlantic Ocean at closest approach.

The asteroid was discovered last week by telescopes in New Mexico. It is between 15 feet and 60 feet wide. Scientists say asteroids this size sail past Earth every six years.

Earlier this year, a smaller space rock came within 3,400 miles of Earth.



NASA's near Earth object program: