150-foot asteroid buzzes, misses Earth - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

150-foot asteroid buzzes, misses Earth

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A 150-foot asteroid hurtled through Earth's backyard Friday, coming within an incredible 17,150 miles and making the closest known flyby for a rock of its size. In a chilling coincidence, a meteor exploded above Russia just hours before the asteroid zoomed past the planet.

SEE: Meteor explodes over Russia; about 1,100 injured

"Asteroids that big pass that close, rarely," says Adler Planetarium Astronomer Dr. Mark Hammergren. "Maybe once every 40 years."

The Chicago area once had its own close call when as meteorites lit up the night sky and crashed through homes in Park Forest ten years ago. A piece of that history is now about to be on display at the Adler Planetarium.

Astronomers say collisions, like the one well documented in Russia, are still very rare. But is the close call with the much anticipated asteroid called 2012 DA-14 related to the surprising one in Russia?

Scientists the world over, along with NASA, insisted the meteor had nothing to do with the asteroid since they appeared to be traveling in opposite directions. The asteroid is a much more immense object and delighted astronomers in Australia and elsewhere who watched it zip harmlessly through a clear night sky.

Dr. Hammergren says no one saw it coming.

"Total shock, a completely ridiculous, cosmic coincidence," he added.

Box office hits, like "Armageddon," play off of these cosmic encounters, showing an asteroid heading straight for earth.

What should happen if an asteroid is headed straight for earth?

"If you did that with this asteroid that made the fly-by and you exploded that into chunks, the size of the one that hit Russia. You would have, gosh, hundreds of ones the size that hit in Russia, all falling down and hitting the earth all over the place," Dr. Hammergren explains.

Fortunately, astronomers say they are able to detect a good number of the large asteroids and if one were to come directly towards earth, they could even know decades in advance. The bad news: astronomers can't exactly look everywhere at once, mainly because of a lack of funding.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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