The Earth is going to get a very close shave by an asteroid*. Called 2012 DA14, this 50 meter (160 foot) rock will pass just over 27,000 kilometres (17,000 miles) from the Earth’s surface. This is closer than our geosynchronous satellites, so this really is a close pass!
But, to be very clear: This asteroid poses no threat to us right now, nor in the foreseeable future.
Pebble in the Sky
2012 DA14 was discovered in February 2012 by astronomers at the Observatorio Astronómico de La Sagra; it passed the Earth on Feb. 16th of that year, missing us by a comfortable 2.6 million km (1.6 million miles). The asteroid has a very Earth-like orbit, talking 366 days to orbit the Sun. Its orbit is slightly more elliptical than ours and tilted by about 11° to ours as well. All that’s about to change though: After the encounter this year, the Earth’s gravity will change the orbit of DA14 quite a bit, reducing the period to about 317 days.