Huge asteroid skips past harmlessly

LOS ANGELES, July 4 (AP) – A huge asteroid whizzed by Earth early yesterday, passing about 433,000 kilometres from the planet’s surface — slightly farther away than the moon.

More than three dozen asteroids have flown closer to Earth in the last few years, but scientists believe 2004 XP14 is among the largest.

The asteroid, discovered in 2004, is estimated to be up to 800 metres wide, based on its brightness. Residents with telescopes in the United States and Canada had the best view of 2004 XP14, which appeared as a streaking dot in the northern sky.

An asteroid that size, if it smashed into Earth, would probably cause regional destruction. Scientists have said it would take a 1.6-kilometre-wide or larger asteroid to cause widespread devastation that could threaten civilization.