Asteroid 2012 DA14

On February 15th 2013, an Asteroid will be passing by Earth closer to us than the Moon is to our planet and closer to us than some satellites that we have orbiting us. There was a time when some scientists thought that the Asteroid would hit Earth, but they now believe it will miss us (thank goodness!), and will travel pass us at about 17,200 miles away.  This is still pretty close and may possibly allow us, if it is a clear day and night, to view the Asteroid at some point.  Those of us with access to good binoculars and telescopes should have a good view if the skies are clear.

To put the distance that Asteroid 2012 DA14 will swing by us in context, the Moon is 240,000 miles away and geosynchronous satellites are about 26,000 miles away.  So the Asteroid will travel approx 9,000 miles closer to us than these satellites.  The Asteroid itself is a small one compared to most others and is about 45m across with a mass of about 130,000 metric tons, but would still have caused some damage if it actually hit us!

NASA have released a statement regarding the Asteroid with a few more tidbits of information,

On [February 15, 2013], the asteroid will travel rapidly from the southern evening sky into the northern morning sky with its closest Earth approach occurring about 19:26 UTC when it will achieve a magnitude of less than seven, which is somewhat fainter than naked eye visibility. About 4 minutes after its Earth close approach, there is a good chance it will pass into the Earth’s shadow for about 18 minutes or so before reappearing from the eclipse. When traveling rapidly into the northern morning sky, 2012 DA14 will quickly fade in brightness.


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