PASADENA, California (AP) -- An asteroid with a diameter of 100 feet (30 meters) passed close but harmlessly by Earth, astronomers said.
The hurtling rock passed about 26,500 miles (42,640 kilometers) above the southern Atlantic Ocean at 5:08 p.m. (2208 GMT) Thursday.
It was the closest recorded encounter between Earth and an asteroid, said Steven Chesley, an astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who works on a program looking for such objects.
Such encounters, however, are actually believed to occur at the rate of one every two years and have simply not been detected, he said.
"There certainly have been closer encounters that we didn't know about," he added.
Astronomers were continuing to observe the asteroid, 2004 FH, which was expected to be beyond the moon's orbit by early Friday.
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