An asteroid hurtling through space came within a hair's breadth -- in astronomical terms, at least -- of crashing into the Earth early on Monday, US scientists said.
Apollo Asteroid 2004 XP14 was discovered by Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, a research facility which part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and which claims the title of "the world's principal detector of asteroids", said Roger Sudbury, a spokesman for the lab.
"We were the discoverer" said Sudbury of the Apollo Asteroid 2004 XP14, which passed some 432,000 kilometres from the Earth at 0955 IST.
The distance between the two bodies was slightly greater than that between the Earth and the moon -- a close shave in the vastness of outer space.
Sudbury said the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Minor Planet Centre, which is affiliated with the Lincoln Lab, had classified the body as a "potentially hazardous asteroid," because of its proximity to Earth and, if it hit, could have caused "significant impact".
"Most of them that we discover are in the main asteroid belt, which is between Mars and Jupiter," Sudbury said.
"Most would just burn up upon re-entry into the atmosphere," he said. "Some of them will have trajectories that will at some point come into the Earth's orbit.
"The question, of course," he continued, "is, where the Earth as the asteroid goes by?"