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NASA says bus-sized asteroid safely buzzed Earth

NASA reported that an asteroid roughly the size of a school bus passed by Earth early Thursday morning, traveling from about 13,000 miles away. 

According to the government space agency, the rock made its closest approach to Earth around 7 a.m. EDT on Thursday, passing over the Southeastern Pacific Ocean. 

NASA first reported on the asteroid on Tuesday, saying that scientists estimated the space rock was about 15 to 30 feet wide. Scientists predict that the asteroid will now travel around the sun and not make its way back into the Earth's vicinity until 2041. 

Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said Tuesday that space rocks such as these are relatively common and are not considered a threat to life on Earth. 

"There are a large number of tiny asteroids like this one, and several of them approach our planet as close as this several times every year," Chodas said. "In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two."

He added that "the detection capabilities of NASA's asteroid surveys are continually improving, and we should now expect to find asteroids of this size a couple days before they come near our planet." 

NASA said that while Thursday's asteroid was not on a trajectory to hit Earth, it would have likely broken up in the atmosphere and become a bright meteor, known as a fireball, before causing any damage. 

This comes a month after NASA reported that an asteroid is on a path toward Earth one day before the U.S. presidential election, although the agency said that the chances of it actually hitting the Earth's surface are less than 1 percent. NASA confirmed in a statement to The Hill last month that the rock would not pose a threat. 

"If it were to enter our planet's atmosphere, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size," a spokesperson said in the statement. "NASA has been directed by Congress to discover 90% of the near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters (459 feet) in size and reports on asteroids of any size."

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