A small asteroid flew safely by our planet Thursday night, coming within 434,000 kilometres of Earth — just beyond the moon's orbit. 

The newly discovered asteroid 2010 GA6 made its closest approach at 10:07 p.m. ET Thursday, according to information on the NASA web site.

"Fly-bys of near-Earth objects within the moon's orbit occur every few weeks," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Scientists estimate the asteroid was 18 to 41 metres wide.

NASA uses ground and space-based telescopes to spot and track a variety of asteroids and comets that have the potential to pass near Earth.

In January, another small asteroid passed within 122,000 kilometres of Earth.

On March 31, 2004, a small asteroid, designated 2004 FU162, came the closest to Earth, passing within 6,500 kilometres — but it was only five to 10 metres in diameter.