A MASSIVE asteroid big enough to “destroy a city” whizzed past Earth at the weekend giving astronomers less than 48 hours warning.
The 360ft asteroid, named 2018 GE3, flew within 119,000 miles (192,000 km) of the planet with little warning over the weekend.
Asteroid 2018 GE3 was observed by US-based astronomers The Catalina Sky Survey and Steward Observatory in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Within the next 24 hours, the space rock flew perilously close to Earth, passing at around half the distance between the planet and the moon.
2018 GE3 is an asteroid from the inner regions of the asteroid belt, classified as a near-Earth object of the Apollo group, approximately 48–110 meters (157–361 feet) in diameter.
It was first observed on 14 April 2018, at 09:23 UT, by astronomers of the Catalina Sky Survey at Steward Observatory’s Catalina Station, Arizona, only one day prior to its sub-lunar close encounter with Earth at 0.50 LD (0.001286 AU) on 15 April 2018.
It is both the largest known asteroid to ever pass that close to Earth, as well as the Moon, in observational history.
99942 Apophis will break both of these records when it approaches only 0.098 LD (0.000252 AU) from Earth on 13 April 2029.
The meteor was even bigger than the 50ft-wide asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013, injuring hundreds.
Despite coming from directly away from the Sun, it was not discovered until 14 April 2018, only one day prior to its closest approach. If the most advanced survey telescopes had been looking at its location, it could have been discovered as early as March 30.
Only two near-Earth asteroids monitored were larger, one in 2001 and one in 2002, according to NASA records.
SpaceX engineer Andrew Radar tweeted: “Asteroid 2018 GE3 flew past us today, half the distance to the Moon.
“Around 50-100 m in diameter, it was several times the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor, around the size of the 1908 Tunguska event – easily enough to destroy a city.
“We had less than a day’s warning.”