A “small” asteroid will make a record close approach to Earth next week, coming inside the earth-centric orbit of most man-made satellites.
NASA scientists at the near-Earth object program are monitoring asteroid 2012 DA14 closely and say there is absolutely no chance that the space rock will smash into our planet this time around.
There is a very slight chance that it will hit the Earth when it flies by again in 2110. It was discovered just one year ago.
The asteroid, about half the size of a football field (150 feet in diameter), will however, only be 17,200 miles above Earth’s surface when it whips past the eastern Indian Ocean, off Sumatra, around 2:24 p.m. East Coast time on Feb 15. It won’t be visible with the naked eye, but could be seen with binoculars.
Most weather and communication satellites circle Earth at a distance of around 22,000 miles — so that’s a pretty close shave.
“The flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 is the closest ever predicted Earth approach for an object this large,” NASA said in a press release.
Asteroid 2012 DA 14 is hurtling toward Earth at 17,460 miles per hour and weighs almost 287,000,000 pounds.
Even in the improbable scenario that 2012 DA 14 did smack into Earth, the piece of space debris wouldn’t destroy our planet. It would be similar to the Tunguska asteroid, which hit Siberia in 1908, though if it hit a city or an ocean it could create a fair bit of destruction.
NASA’s Don Yeomans tells CNN that 2012 DA14 is likely made of stone, which would be less damaging than the asteroid made of metal that “collided with Earth 50,000 years ago, creating the mile wide Meteor Crater’ in Arizona and obliterating everything for 50 miles around.”
Here’s more on the asteroid from NASA:
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