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.

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Comment Sorting
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?

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