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Asteroid Passes Within 65,000 Miles of Earth a Day After Scientists Discover It

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Jun 08, 2013 04:06 PM EDT
2013 LR6
Discovered a day before its closest approach to Earth, Asteroid 2013 LR6 came within roughly 65,000 miles of the planet as it flew over the Southern Ocean of Tasmania, Australia at 12:42 a.m. EDT on June 8. (Photo : NASA)

Discovered a day before its closest approach to Earth, Asteroid 2013 LR6 came within roughly 65,000 miles of the planet as it flew over the Southern Ocean of Tasmania, Australia at 12:42 a.m. EDT on June 8.

Despite being more than half the size of the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in February, the 30-foot-wide asteroid posed no threat, according to NASA.

It was spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey, a NASA-funded mission based in Arizona charged with scanning the sky for near-Earth objects.

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According to Lance Benner, the principal investigator for radar observations at the Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, Calif., the powerful Goldstone array, which is often used to observe near-Earth asteroids, did not observe 2013 LR6 due to a lack of time.

"It will go through so quickly that we aren’t going to do it with radar,” he said before the event, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In the meantime, Benner said Goldstone will continue to observe the 1.6-mile-long 1998 QE2, which made its closest pass to Earth on May 31. Though much farther - roughly 15 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon - the Goldstone array has been able to track it for more than a week due to its size, mapping its many features.

And while neither 2013 LR6 nor 1998 QE2 came close enough cause any great concern among scientists, researchers believe it’s only a matter of time before one even larger than the one that struck Russia poses a major threat to the planet.

For this reason, NASA researchers are working to lasso an asteroid and drag it closer to the Moon for further testing in hopes of developing a method to destroy or divert an asteroid that may one day be headed for Earth.

Initially, scientists considered sending astronauts to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter – an idea that was thrown out due to the large costs.

The new idea, however, NASA Chief Charles Bolden called “ingenious,” according to the Associated Press.

“If you can’t get to the asteroid, bring the asteroid to you,” he said.

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