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Earth sees close encounter with an asteroid


Staff writers

February 14, 2013 — Talk about too close for comfort. Asteroid 2012 DA14 will buzzed by Earth on Friday, missing the planet by a mere 27,000 kilometres.

NASA image of 2012 DA14 and the Eta Carinae Nebula. The white box highlights the asteroid's path (click to enlarge) courtesy: NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery
NASA image of 2012 DA14 and the Eta Carinae Nebula. The white box highlights the asteroid's path (click to enlarge) courtesy: NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery

The asteroid, dubbed 2012 DA14, was first discovered by astronomers in Spain about a year ago.

The size of the rock is approximately 45 metres across, about twice the size of a space shuttle, or about a half a football field in length. 

NASA says there is no chance of collision with this asteroid, but it is going to be flying only 10 percent away from where the moon is from our planet. 

That means it will fly between the Earth and most major weather and television satellites, which orbit Earth. 

According to experts this is the closest known object of this size ever to pass Earth.

This image from D. Herald of Murrumbateman, Australia, shows the asteroid 2012 DA14 as a tiny speck highlighted by yellow arrows. The image was taken in the early morning on Feb. 13, 2013 in Australia (courtesy: NASA)
This image from D. Herald of Murrumbateman, Australia, shows the asteroid 2012 DA14 as a tiny speck highlighted by yellow arrows. The image was taken in the early morning on Feb. 13, 2013 in Australia (courtesy: NASA)

None-the-less, it's an extremely close visit from DA14, but it's hardly a surprise. 

There are over 9,000 known near-Earth objects currently orbiting the Solar System with thousands more hiding undiscovered. 

It's a good thing that this asteroid will definitely miss Earth on Friday, February 15 because the damage from such an impact would be the equivalent to the release of about three megatons of energy. 

It would be roughly as damaging as the famous Tunguska event, which flattened trees for up to 80 km in all directions over Siberia on June 30, 1908.

On Friday, NASA kept its cameras on the fast-moving asteroid as it zoomed towards Earth.

The flyby comes just hours after a meteor streaked across Russia's Ural Mountains.

While the timing may seem peculiar, NASA says the two events are unrelated.

"According to NASA scientists, the trajectory of the Russia meteor was significantly different than the trajectory of the asteroid 2012 DA14, making it a completely unrelated object," NASA said in a statement earlier today.

"Information is still being collected about the Russia meteor and analysis is preliminary at this point. In videos of the meteor, it is seen to pass from left to right in front of the rising sun, which means it was travelling from north to south. Asteroid DA14's trajectory is in the opposite direction, from south to north."

With files from Andrew Fazekas

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