Asteroid To Just Miss Earth Next Week

Officials say there is no threat to earth.

Baltimore, MD - Asteroid DA14 will give Earth a quick scare next week as it passes earth within only a few thousand miles. The 150 foot asteroid (just over a football field size) will pass only 17,200 miles from earths atmosphere on February 15 th. This will be the closest any asteroid has come to our planet.

NASA along with other experts say there is no chance this asteroid will slam into earth as it makes its pass next week.

The space rock was discovered last February by astronomers with the La Sagra Sky Survey in Spain. The asteroid has been orbiting the sun every 368 days and on its next orbital will pass quickly by earth traveling at an astounding 17,400 mph. 

The energy associated with the asteroid would be about that of a 2 to 3 megaton nuclear weapon, 200 times the energy released at Hiroshima. If the asteroid had impacted earth it would destroy a few cities on impact.

The asteroid will become visible as a point of light through binoculars and small telescopes during its pass. However, NASA says the best viewing locations will center over Eastern Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Asteroid DA14 along with other asteroids of similar size makes a close pass to earth every 40 years and actually hit earth every 1200 years or so.

Mike Masco

TWITTER: @mikemasco

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Frequently asked questions from Planetary.org

http://www.planetary.org/explore/projects/neo-grants/2012-da14-faq.html

Will the asteroid hit Earth in 2013?

No, there is no chance of it hitting Earth in 2013.

Will it hit Earth in the future?

Not in the next few decades, but there are small chances that it will hit after that including a 1 in 7.5 million chance of hitting in 2110.

What is the time of closest approach

Feb. 15, 2013, 19:25 UT (11:25 PST)

What is the closest approach altitude?

Approximate altitude above the surface of the Earth will be 27,330 km, 17,000 mi (34,100 km, 21,200 mi from center of Earth).  That is closer than the altitude of geosynchronous satellites, e.g., satellite TV satellites, at 35,786 km (22,236 mi) altitude.  The flyby is shown in the following JPL produced diagram and you can compare its distance to both the Moon's orbit and the orbits of geosynchronous satellites.

Could it hit a geosynchronous or other satellite?

The asteroid will not hit a geosynchronous satellite (satellites that are in an orbit allowing them to stay above the same point on Earth all the time) because it is coming inside that ring of satellites, and because those satellites are in equatorial orbits whereas the asteroid will come in at an angle so only spend a brief moment crossing the plane.  Nearly all other satellites, e.g., the International Space Station, are much, much lower than the asteroid flyby distance so are safe.

Will it be visible with the naked eye, how bright will it be?

It will not be a naked eye object.  At closest approach, its brightness will be about a magnitude of 7.  It will be bright enough that it could be seen with steady binoculars or a small telescope if you are on the side of Earth it will be passing.

What parts of Earth will have a chance to observe it telescopically?

Near closest approach when it is brightest, most of Europe, Asia, and Africa.  It will pass from the southern hemisphere to northern hemisphere.  Though it will be much dimmer, it is observable by larger telescopes for days to weeks before and after closest approach.

Are big telescopes going to be looking at the asteroid?

Yes, including radar observations that will be particularly good at defining its size and its exact orbit.

How fast will it be moving across the sky?

At closest approach, almost 1 degree (2 Moon diameters) per minute.  That is about 1/8 the speed of the International Space Station moving across the sky, but much, much faster than any "normal" astronomical object, making it a challenging object to track near closest approach for many telescopes.

Will astronauts on the International Space Station have a great view?

Not really.  The ISS orbits only about 400 km above Earth so they are only a tiny bit closer to the flyby compared to the surface of the Earth, though they don't have atmosphere in the way.

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