While sizeable space rocks zooming past our planet at high speed are hardly uncommon, nearly two decades ago one asteroid "capable of inflicting devastating damage" flirted with Earth, and was only detected several days later, the Daily Star reports.
According to the newspaper, the 80-metre wide asteroid "2002 MN" passed our planet from a range of 120,000 kilometres on 14 June, 2002.
As New Scientist noted at that time, scientists only became aware of the asteroid on 17 June, since it managed to escape detection by approaching our planet from the direction of the Sun.
The space object was detected by MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s LINEAR camera but only after it had passed by and “moved slowly across the stellar background,” as the magazine puts it.
"It’s the largest object known to have come this close within decades," Brian Marsden of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics told New Scientist back in 2002, with the magazine claiming that the asteroid was comparable to the object that exploded over Tunguska back in 1908.