Asteroid passes near Earth on Christmas Eve

Astronomers got an early Christmas present Thursday when an asteroid flew by Earth at a distance of 6.8 million miles, according to NASA.

The passing of the asteroid posed no threat to Earth, according to Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

"The closest this object will come to Santa and his eight tiny reindeer is about 28 times the distance between Earth and the moon," he said in a news release.

Asteroid 2003 SD220 flew past Earth on Dec. 24, allowing scientists to get the highest-resolution images yet of the asteroid. Lance Benner, leader of NASA's asteroid radar research program, said images suggested the asteroid was at least 3,600 feet long.

According to NASA, the asteroid will fly nearby again in 2018. At that time scientists expect it will fly at a distance of 1.8 million miles -- the closest it will get until 2070, when its predicted to pass at a distance of 1.7 million miles.