Asteroid no one saw coming narrowly misses Earth

The asteroid (not pictured) was between 16 and 32m wide.
The asteroid (not pictured) was between 16 and 32m wide. Photo credit: Getty

An asteroid the size of a whale narrowly missed Earth recently, and no one saw it until we would've been in its rear-view mirror.

2017 VL2 could have obliterated the Auckland CBD, but instead it whizzed by only 117,500km away - between here and the moon. It was travelling at 8.7km per second.

According to Purdue University's Impact Earth calculator, it could have struck with the power of up to 220 kilotons of TNT - about 15 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II.

Another website shows how large the resulting crater would likely have been, had it hit Queen St.

How big the crater might have been. Photo credit:

NASA astronomers in Hawaii only spotted the asteroid on November 10 - the day after it passed us.

2017 VL2 was somewhere between 16 and 32 metres wide, and won't pass by Earth again until 2125, according to the International Astronomical Union.

Next week, 3200 Patheon, a massive asteroid 5km across, will come within 3 million kilometres of Earth - it's a big one, but its orbit is well-known and poses no risk to the planet.

The asteroid that is believed to have killed off the dinosaurs was about twice as wide as 3200 Patheon.