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Last Updated: Monday July 03 2006 16:13 GMT

Asteroid passes 'close' to Earth

An asteroid

A giant asteroid hurtled past our planet on Monday morning, getting almost as close as the Moon.

The space rock - called 2004 XP14 - was travelling at 11 miles per second when it passed by at about 5.30am UK time.

It was about 268,000 miles away from us - or just 1.1 times the Moon's average distance from the Earth.

Scientists had already worked out that it wouldn't hit us, but that didn't stop them classifying it as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA).

The asteroid, which could be as big has half a mile wide, was discovered in December 2004.

At first, there were fears that it might smash into the Earth.

"It would probably be big enough to wipe out a small country," said one expert.

Scientists were bouncing radar signals at the asteroid in the hope of finding out more about it.

But don't worry if you missed it - another asteroid is set to make an even closer fly-by at 20,000 miles from the Earth on April 13, 2029.