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Asteroids duo zips by planet

Artist's concept of a big one that doesn't miss.
Artist's concept of a big one that doesn't miss.  

By Kate Tobin
CNN Sci-Tech

(CNN) -- Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are monitoring two asteroids that are passing relatively close to Earth on Wednesday.

At its closest point, asteroid 2002 AO11 will come within 3 million miles of Earth. Further away, asteroid 1991VK will miss our planet by almost 7 million miles.

While such distances may seem large, these asteroids are actually passing quite nearby, considering the size of the solar system.

But neither of these asteroids poses a threat to Earth, NASA said.

Asteroid disaster movies have been popular with Hollywood in recent years, with such films as "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon" dramatizing the global devastation that would certainly occur if a sizable asteroid hit earth.

Such giants have hit the planet. Scientists speculate that one such monster did so much damage when it struck about 65 million years ago that it brought an end to the age of dinosaurs.

And scientists say such an event, while unlikely, could happen again with little warning. Researchers do not know how many so-called Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are out there. They have identified about 600 nearby and are continuing to watch for other large asteroids.

Near misses are not uncommon. Only days ago, on January 7, the asteroid 2001 YB5 passed just 510,000 miles from Earth, less than twice the distance between the moon and Earth. Astronomers first spotted it in December.




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