Astronomers from the Observatory in Costitx are taking part in the tracking of an asteroid some 200 metres in diameter, discovered at the end of last year, which passed 700'000 kilometres from the Earth on December 22. A spokesman for the Esteve Duran Observatory Foundation of Seva (Barcelona), whose members include several centres from Catalonia and the Balearics, said that although the distance of 700'000 kilometres may seem considerable, in astronomy terms it is very close as it is less than twice the distance which separates the Earth from the Moon. The asteroid, named 2000YA, is the 13th asteroid to pass close to the Earth since 1889. The one which passed closest to Earth did so at a distance of only 105'000 kilometres. Observations from Costitx and the Catalan observatories of Ametlla de Mar and Piera were decisive in determining the preliminary orbit of the asteroid. These three observatories, who form part of the Group of Astronomy Studies (GEA) have been carrying out a joint project of searching for and tracking asteroids and have discovered several. The 2000YA falls within the Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) category. The new asteroid was discovered by the LONEOS team in Ariona on the night of December 16, but dawn interrupted its observations which should have been continued by the Kiet observatory in the Czech Republic, but bad weather interfered. As a result, the GEA observatories were contacted in order not to lose track of the asteroid, in case it moved dangerously close to earth. Thanks to their observations it was possible to determine that its closest proximity would be 700'000 kilometres. An impact of a 200 metre-diameter asteroid would have destroyed an area as large as Catalonia. The astronomers said that asteroids are difficult to locate in time to prepare an eventual evacuation.