This afternoon, an asteroid was expected to pass Earth within the moon's orbit, flying lower than communications, weather and GPS satellites high above the planet, according to Space.com.
While it was the nearest to Earth an object of its size has ever passed, asteroid 2012 DA 14 would barely be visible from Maryland, even with a telescope, said McDaniel College Physicist Jeff Marx.
According to Marx, the meteor that hit Russia early this morning injuring more than 500 people, was not related to 2012 DA 14, which scientists have been tracking for a year.
"Amazingly, they came from two different parts of the sky, so they were unrelated," Marx said. "To me this highlights the need for a well-funded project to discover and monitor potential Earth-orbit-crossing objects in our solar system. No one had any idea this meteor was going to strike, or that it even existed."
Marx said having a better inventory of such objects might give us a chance to deflect them away from impact with earth.
"To the best of my knowledge, this represents the largest recorded collection of human injuries due to a single object falling from space," Marx said of this morning's meteor landfall in Russia.
The asteriod that passed by earth today at approximately 2:24 p.m., 2012 DA 14, was discovered nearly a year ago, prompting speculation the asteroid, which NASA says will travel rapidly from the southern evening sky into the northern morning sky, might hit a satellite.
It will be close, and about 100,000 others could be headed our way, said famed science educator Bill Nye, who heads up the Planetary Society.
"This one will miss us by about 15 minutes—15 minutes difference and that's it," Nye told CNN.
He said 2012 DA 14 should serve as a wake-up call to the importance of defending Earth against asteroid impacts.
"Get nervous," Nye said, "But not about this one."
Don't worry if you missed this celestial event, Marx said there are two comets expected to dazzle in 2013, the first expected in March.
"We are potentially going to witness two fantastic naked-eye comets this year," Marx told Patch.
The first, known as PANSTARRS, could be visible near the Andromeda Galaxy (the most distant object you can see with the naked eye) in the morning sky in March for us in Maryland, Marx said.
"The second, ISON, will be visible in November and December and could be so bright that it may be visible during the day," Marx said. "It is predicted to be the best comet of our lifetime."
Stay tuned to Patch for updates about these and other celestial events.