By: Tariq Malik
Published: 03/31/2012 11:30 AM EDT on SPACE.com
An asteroid the size of a passenger jet will zoom close by Earth on Sunday (April 1) just in time for April Fools' Day, but it has no chance of hitting the Earth, NASA says.
The asteroid 2012 EG5 will be closer than the moon when it passes Earth at 5:32 a.m. EDT (0932 GMT). The space rock is about 150 feet wide (46 meters), according to a NASA update.
"Asteroid 2012 EG5 will safely pass Earth on April 1," scientists with NASA's Asteroid Watch program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., wrote in a Twitter statement.
The space rock may be visiting Earth on April Fools' Day, but its flyby is no prank. The asteroid will creep within 143,000 miles (230,000 kilometers) of Earth during its closest approach, which is just over half the distance between Earth and the moon's orbit. The moon typically circles the Earth at a distance of 238,000 miles (382,900 km).
Asteroid 2012 EG5 is the third relatively small asteroid to buzz the Earth in seven days. Two smaller asteroids passed near Earth on Monday (March 26).
Early Monday, the bus-size asteroid 2012 FP35 came within 96,000 miles (154,000 km) of Earth. It was followed a few hours later by asteroid 2012 FS35, which is the size of a car and passed Earth at a range of 36,000 miles (58,000 km).
Like asteroid 2012 EG5, those two smaller space rocks on Monday posed no risk of hitting Earth. Those space rocks were so small they would not survive the trip through Earth's atmosphere, even if they were aimed at our planet, Asteroid Watch researchers said.
Asteroid 2012 EG5 was discovered on March 13 by astronomers searching for near-Earth space rocks. Another space rock, the asteroid 2012 FA57, was discovered on March 28 and will fly by Earth on April 4 when it passes at a range just beyond the orbit of the moon.
Scientists with NASA's Near-Earth Object Program at JPL and other teams of astronomers regularly monitor the sky for larger, potentially dangerous asteroids to determine if they pose an impact threat to Earth.