This asteroid buzzed Earth at a distance closer than the moon

The Virtual Telescope Project got a look at Asteroid 2018 DU, a sneaky space rock that came in for an Earth flyby.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

It happened on Sunday and you probably didn't even notice. 

Asteroid 2018 DU, a small space object discovered on Feb. 23, passed safely by Earth at a distance closer than our moon. The Virtual Telescope Project managed to catch a view of the asteroid as it headed our way.

Enlarge Image

Asteroid 2018 DU was about 200,000 miles (315,000 kilometers) from Earth when this image was taken.

Gianluca Masa (Virtual Telescope Project)/Michael Schwartz (Tenagra Observatories)/Red circle by CNET

The Virtual Telescope Project says it tracked the apparent motion of the asteroid, which resulted in an image in which it appears distinctly. 

"This is why stars leave long trails, while the asteroid looks like a sharp dot of light in the center of the image," the project's website said, explaining its technique. The sighting comes from a telescope at the Tenagra Observatories in Arizona. 

The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center says the asteroid could be as small as 13 feet (4 meters) in size, about the size of a classic Volkswagen Beetle. The Virtual Telescope Project estimates it to be about 33 feet (10 meters), which would put it closer to the size of a double-decker bus.

As you've likely noticed by now, the asteroid passed by us by with no ill effects.

Lots of asteroids have cozied up to our planet lately, including 2018 BD in January and the house-sized 2018 CB, which made a close pass earlier in February. 

Of course, these are just a drop in the bucket for asteroids in our neighborhood. In late 2016, NASA said it had cataloged more than 15,000 near-Earth asteroids.

Astronomers and space fans will have an good opportunity for asteroid observation on March 7 when Asteroid 2017 VR12 makes an approach. The Virtual Telescope Project will offer live coverage of the flyby. The asteroid is classified as potentially hazardous, but will travel by at a safe distance.

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