News / USA

NASA: Asteroid to Pass Very Near Earth

Suzanne Presto
Astronomers around the world are preparing for a record-breaking asteroid flyby February 15.  

Measuring 45 meters in diameter and weighing an estimated 130,000 metric tons, Asteroid 2012 DA14 is considered small by scientists who track the solar system's rocky debris, but it will zip past our planet so closely that it will be even nearer to us than our orbiting weather and communications satellites.

It is the closest-ever-predicted approach for an object this size. Experts emphasize there is no reason for concern.  

"There's no danger to the planet at all," Lindley Johnson of NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program in Washington told VOA. "We know the orbit quite well now."

Close flyby

Johnson said Asteroid 2012 DA14 will come as close as 27,700 kilometers - about one-tenth the distance between the Earth and the Moon.   

"Close flybys of asteroids happen quite frequently," explained Johnson, who said more than 20 asteroids have come between the Earth and the Moon in the past year. "But they're usually very small-sized objects - maybe only a few meters in size."  

The 45-meter asteroid will speed past us at about 7.8 kilometers per second, nearly 10 times faster than a speeding bullet.

Spotting the asteroid

It will be closest to Earth on February 15 at approximately 19:24 UTC. NASA says at that time, the asteroid will be visible in parts of Eastern Europe, North Africa, Asia and Australia. Skywatchers will need binoculars or a telescope to glimpse the faint, quickly moving point of light.    

Astronomers in Spain first observed 2012 DA14 last February. Johnson said it is not surprising that the asteroid was not detected until recently.

"The orbit last year brought it close enough so that it would be within the detection limits of the observatories that we have doing this survey," Johnson explained.  

Asteroid encounters

NASA estimates that about 100,000 objects this size are in Earth's vicinity. On average, one gets close every 40 years and hits every 1,200 years.  

In 1908, a slightly smaller asteroid exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, leveling trees over 2,000 square kilometers.

Learning opportunities

The flyby is a remarkable opportunity for scientists.

"It provides us the next best thing to doing a spacecraft flyby of an asteroid," said NASA's Johnson. "It's kind of nice that nature gives us these natural opportunities to examine these objects and learn all we can about them."

NASA has plans to launch a spacecraft in 2016 to study another asteroid and retrieve a sample for study here on Earth.

As for Asteroid 2012 DA14, NASA says that its next notable close approach to our planet will be in 2046.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ali from: Tehran
February 11, 2013 2:46 PM
If you want to know more about this object, just please contact with Dr. Ahmadi Nejad. He knows every thing about it. He is a professor, engineer, nurse, artist, footballer, architect, philosophic, clergy, horse rider, poet, singer, vocalist, forecaster ,etc. Mr. Albert Einstein was his student. I saw their photos on a wall in my city. They were like father and son.

by: Kunle Olawole from: ILORIN, Nigeria
February 11, 2013 4:03 AM
How many years does it take this God's weapon of mass destruction to make a round? And what would be its proximity to our planet at the next turn?

by: hamsphere from: texas
February 09, 2013 9:28 PM
seems like our friends up in sky have been doing a lot fly bys lately wonder if the big one hits us will the goverments tell us or tell a big lie I would want to know so I can go out with smile on my face ,our name is on one someday cause it happen before why not now ?

by: Tim from: Houston texas
February 09, 2013 5:08 PM
Since it is passing so close to the earth and scheduled to return again in 2046,why dont we place a nuclear bomb on the asteroid and blow it to smaller pieces that the earths atmosphere can burn.

by: big daddy from: Ga
February 08, 2013 10:29 PM
well if it hits, I hope it hits DC, so we can start over.
In Response

by: Barrie from: Calgary
February 09, 2013 5:21 PM
This asteroid is larger than the one in Siberia, which destroyed 2000 Km, or 1200 miles. Estimating a 750 mile radius from Chesapeake Bay, I don't hold out much hope for Georgia, or for that matter, a chunk of New England (including NYC?), Ohio, Michigan, and ?. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. On reflection, maybe the Great Flood was a similar event, intended to reboot our civilisation. Last I looked, that didn't work out for us, did it?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More