Asteroid to buzz Earth today

00:33, Feb 18 2014

An asteroid due to pass Earth at 3pm today has been described as "potentially hazardous" despite being millions of kilometres away.

The space rock named "2000 EM26" and 200 metres across, has been categorised by astronomers as a potentially hazardous near-Earth object (NEO), large enough to cause significant damage in the event of an impact.

However, Auckland's Stardome Observatory and Planetarium told Fairfax Media the asteroid would be too faint to see with the naked eye,

"It won't be possible to see this asteroid from Earth without the help of a good telescope," marketing manager Delyse Diack said.

"It's less than 200m in size and passing us nearly nine times further than the distance to the Moon - about 2.7 million kilometres."

Robotic telescope service Slooh would be live-streaming a telescopic view of the event.

Slooh's website today reported the asteroid was a "subtle reminder of the dangers of asteroid impacts, just one year after [the Chelyabinsk meteor] on February 15th, 2013".

The Chelyabinsk meteor was a near-Earth asteroid that entered the atmosphere over Russia
. Its explosion panicked local residents and injured 1500 people.

The last time a big rock is known to have hit Earth was on June 30, 1908, when an object up to 70 metres across exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, flattening 80 million trees over 2000 square kilometres.

Few asteroids cross Earth's path, and fewer still survive its atmosphere. Most of those that do are likely to fall into the sea, which covers two-thirds of the planet.