It came closer ... closer ... and then it started heading away. But you may not have noticed at all.
An asteroid passed relatively close to Earth around 2:24 p.m. ET Friday. As scientists had been predicting all week, it did not hit.
A different and unrelated small asteroid entered the atmosphere over Russia on Friday, hours before the much larger asteroid's fly-by, injuring about 1,000 people. Scientists say that incident was a pure coincidence.
The larger asteroid, called 2012 DA14, never got closer than 17,100 miles to our planet's surface.
Stargazers in Australia, Asia and Eastern Europe could see the asteroid with the aid of a telescope or binoculars. At the Gingin Observatory in Australia, the asteroid appeared as a bright white streak as viewers watched a live NASA video feed.
Scientists are studying this asteroid so extensively that they can already predict its path for most of the 21st century, said Paul Chodas of NASA's Near Earth Object team.
But it is only one of thousands of objects that are destined to one day enter our neighborhood in space.
"There are lots of asteroids that we're watching that we haven't yet ruled out an Earth impact (for), but all of them have an impact probability that is very, very low," Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at a press briefing.
The long and short of it
The asteroid is thought to be 45 meters -- about half a football field -- long. Current estimates suggest that the Russian meteor -- which was a tiny asteroid before it hit the Earth's atmosphere -- was only 15 meters wide, making it much harder to detect.
An object the size of asteroid 2012 DA14 appears to hit Earth about once every 1,200 years, Yeomans said.
"There really hasn't been a close approach that we know about for an object of this size," he added.
On its close approach to Earth, it was predicted the asteroid would be traveling at 7.8 kilometers per second, roughly eight times the speed of a bullet from a high-speed rifle, he said.
If it had hit our planet -- which was impossible -- it would have done so with the energy of 2.4 megatons of TNT, Yeomans said. This is comparable to the event in Tunguska, Russia, in 1908. That asteroid entered the atmosphere and exploded, leveling trees over an area of 820 square miles -- about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island. Like that rock, 2012 DA14 would likely not have left a crater.
What else is out there?
So, we knew that this particular asteroid wasn't going to hit us, but how about all of those other giant rocks floating nearby beyond our atmosphere?
NASA says 9,697 objects have been classified as near-Earth objects, or NEOs, as of February 12. Near-Earth objects are comets or asteroids in orbits that allow them to enter Earth's neighborhood.
There's an important distinction between these two types of objects: Comets are mostly water, ice and dust, while asteroids are mostly rock or metal. Both comets and asteroids have hit Earth in the past.
More than 1,300 near-Earth objects have been classified as potentially hazardous to Earth, meaning that someday they may come close or hit our home planet. NASA is monitoring these objects and updating their locations as new information comes in. Right now, scientists aren't warning of any imminent threats.
Yeomans and colleagues are using telescopes on the ground and in space to nail down the precise orbit of objects that might threaten Earth and predict whether the planet could be hit.