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Leap Day asteroid to whiz past Earth

Just in time for Leap Day, the 61-foot asteroid 2012 DS32 will zoom past our planet at a comfortable distance of about 446,000 miles.

By SPACE.com Staff / February 29, 2012

This NASA graphic depicts the orbit of the small asteroid 2012 DS32, which zooms by Earth on Feb. 29, 2012.

NASA/JPL

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A small asteroid about the size of a house will make one cosmic leap by Earth today, just in time for leap day.

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The newfound asteroid 2012 DS32 poses no chance of hitting our planet, but will make an evening pass to mark this special day for Earth, NASA scientists said.

"Happy Leap Day! Small asteroid 2012 DS32 will safely pass Earth at 7:36 p.m. EST," astronomers with NASA's Asteroid Watch program wrote in a Twitter post. The Asteroid Watch program is part of the Near Earth Object office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. 

The asteroid 2012 DS32 is about 61 feet (about 18.5 meters) across and will still be a good distance away from Earth when it makes its closest approach. At the nearest point, the asteroid will zoom within about 446,000 miles (717,767 kilometers) of the planet, which is slightly less than twice the distance between the Earth and the moon. The average Earth-moon distance is about 238,000 miles (382,900 km).

While it will still be leap day in the United States during the asteroid's flyby, it will already be March 1 in Europe and other areas farther east due to their local time zones.

Leap Day is an extra 29th day added to the month of February every four years in order to keep the Gregorian calendar of months and days aligned with the Earth's seasons. A year with a leap day is known as a leap year.

NASA scientists and other teams of astronomers routinely hunt for space rocks like 2012 DS32 as part of an ongoing search for potentially hazardous asteroids that could pose a threat of impacting Earth.

Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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