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Out Of Mind » SOLAR & PLANETARY ALERTS & INFO » ATMOSPHERIC CHANGES » 2012 DA14 Asteroid to make closest flyby in history

2012 DA14 Asteroid to make closest flyby in history

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2012 DA14 Asteroid to make closest flyby in history

Posted on February 9, 2013 by The Extinction Protocol

An artist’s conception of DA 14, the asteroid expected to whizz past Earth February 15 on the closest approach in history.

February 9, 2013 SPACETalk
about too close for comfort. In a rare cosmic encounter, an asteroid
will buzz Earth next week, missing our planet by a mere 17,200 miles
(27,700 kilometers). Designated 2012 DA14, the space rock is
approximately 150 feet (45 meters) across, and astronomers are certain
it will zip harmlessly past our planet on February 15—but not before
making history. It will pass within the orbits of many communications
satellites, making it the closest flyby on record. “This is indeed a
remarkably close approach for an asteroid this size,” said Paul Chodas, a
research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Near Earth
Object (NEO) program office in Pasadena, California. “We estimate that
an asteroid of this size passes this close to the Earth only once every
few decades.” The giant rock—half a football field wide—was first
spotted by observers at the La Sagra Observatory in southern Spain a
year ago, soon after it had just finished making a much more distant
pass of the Earth at 2.6 million miles (4.3 million kilometers) away.
This time around however, on February 15 at 2:24 p.m. EST, the asteroid
will be passing uncomfortably close—ten times closer than the orbit of
the moon—flying over the eastern Indian Ocean near Sumatra. Chodas and
his team have been keeping a close eye on the cosmic intruder, and
orbital calculations of its trajectory show that there is no chance for
impact. But the researchers have not yet ruled out future chances of a
collision. This is because asteroids of this size are too faint to be
detected until they come quite close to the Earth, said Chodas. The
flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 on Feb. 15, 2013, will be the closest known
approach to Earth for an object its size. “There is still a tiny chance
that it might hit us on some future passage by the Earth; for example
there is [a] 1-in-200,000 chance that it could hit us in the year 2080,”
he said. “But even that tiny chance will probably go away within the
week, as the asteroid’s orbit gets tracked with greater and greater
accuracy and we can eliminate that possibility.” Earth collision with an
object of this size is expected to occur every 1,200 years on average,
said Donald Yeomans, NEO program manager, at a NASA news conference this
week. DA14 has been getting closer and closer to Earth for quite a
while—but this is the asteroid’s closest approach in the past hundred
years. And it probably won’t get this close again for at least another
century, added Yeomans. While no Earth impact is possible next week,
DA14 will pass 5,000 miles inside the ring of orbiting geosynchronous
weather and communications satellites; so all eyes are watching the
space rock’s exact trajectory. -NG

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