Originally created 07/04/06

Large asteroid zips past Earth



LOS ANGELES - A huge asteroid whizzed by Earth early Monday, passing about 269,000 miles from the planet's surface - slightly farther away than the moon.

More than three dozen asteroids have flown closer to Earth in the last few years, but scientists believe 2004 XP14 is among the largest.

The asteroid, discovered in 2004, is estimated to be as wide as a half-mile based on its brightness. Late Sunday and early Monday, it was expected to be visible as a small moving dot to amateur sky watchers with good telescopes in North America and as a fainter object in Europe. Its closest approach was over the U.S. West Coast.

Scientists estimate 2004 XP14 will have 10 more close encounters with Earth over this century, none expected to pose a threat to the planet.

On the Net:

Near Earth Object Program: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov

Sky & Telescope magazine: http://skyandtelescope.com/Default.asp