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A whale of an asteroid has gone missing. The 270-metre space rock known as 2000 EM26 was slated to skim past Earth early on 18 February, coming within 3.4 million kilometres of our planet. But when a robotic telescope service trained its eye on the predicted position, the asteroid was nowhere to be found.

Astronomers coordinating the telescope service, called Slooh, have nicknamed the elusive asteroid Moby Dick after the fictional white whale, and have issued a call to amateur sky-watchers to help hunt it down.

It is not uncommon for asteroids to go missing and it is unlikely that Moby Dick now poses a danger to Earthlings. But its apparent disappearance highlights just how poor Earth is at asteroid surveillance.

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