Asteroid Will Make Close Pass by Earth on Friday

By Breanna Draxler | February 12, 2013 9:24 am

This image shows a close-up view of Eros, an asteroid with an orbit that takes it somewhat close to Earth, though not nearly as close as 2012 DA14 will be on Friday. Image courtesy of NASA/JHUAPL

On Friday, February 15, astronomers will get an unusually good look at a near-Earth asteroid called 2012 DA14. It will be the first time a known object of this size will come this close to Earth—a mere 8 percent the distance between us and our moon.

The asteroid, which measures 150 feet across, was first spotted by astronomers when it zoomed by Earth this time last year. This asteroid’s fly-bys occur about once a year since its orbit around the sun is very similar to our own.

There’s no chance that the asteroid will collide with Earth but it will come pretty close. At its nearest point, there will only be 17,200 miles between us and the asteroid. It will buzz below our geosynchronous weather and communication satellites, but that’s still a ways above the bulk of our equipment floating in space, including the International Space Station.

If you want to see the asteroid as it approaches, your naked eye will unfortunately not be enough. You’ll need to employ your trusty telescope, and even then the asteroid will just be a bright spot in the sky, traveling through your viewfinder at 17,400 miles an hour. Look for it at 2:24 p.m. EST, heading north.

So how rare is such an occurrence? NASA says 2012 DA14 won’t be making a close call like this for another thirty years. On average, asteroids of this size zip by every forty years or so. And once every 1,200 years, an asteroid like this is expected to actually hit the Earth. That gives us some time to stock up on canned goods.

Diagram showing Asteroid 2012 DA14′s passage by the Earth on February 15, 2013. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math, Space, Top Posts
  • bombuzal
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504366837 Chris Laxton

    conflicting information.

    This asteroid’s fly-bys occur about once a year since its orbit around the sun is very similar to our own.

    NASA says 2012 DA14 won’t be making a close call like this for another thirty years.

    so which is it??

    • Breanna Draxler

      To clarify, @facebook-504366837:disqus: the asteroid’s orbit is similar to Earth’s, so it approaches our planet about once a year. But, since the orbits are slightly different, the distance between the two changes year to year. Some years the asteroid is closer than others, and it will be about thirty years before the asteroid gets as close to Earth as it will be this year.

    • Brother Rolf

      Nearness to the sun could change its orbit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kt.garlitz Kt Garlitz

    I think this is very interesting. I did not realize that asteroids flew around the sun multiple times. Its really cool that physics plays such a big role in calculating when and where the asteroid will be a any given point. I also think its kind of funny that 17000 miles is considered close to the earth. It is also semi-concerning that it could potentially hit one of the satellites or space stations orbiting in space.

    • http://www.facebook.com/wishbonef1 Wayne O’Neil

      All objects around the Sun’s vicinity orbit the Sun. 17000 miles is very close, considering that it’s closer than the satellites that provides us with our TV and weather pictures, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gloria.dokken Gloria Jean Dokken

    If an asteroid hits the earth every 1,200 years, when was the last one? Do we need to start getting out of the way anytime soon? I need awhile to pack.

  • cburton.ommd@verizon.net

    Each time this asteroid passes near the Earth, our gravity must affect its orbit. Therefore, its orbit should be slightly different each time it passes. Are scientists SURE one of the future passes won’t intersect our planet?

  • Paul Copping

    I would think that the asteroid coming this close to earth would now put it in a slightly smaller orbit due to earth’s gravitational effect, Has this been predicted for the future encounters? If so, how close will our next future encounter be?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.haxton Mike Haxton

    Such a NEO could very well show a proof of concept for asteroid mining without actually having to go all the far. Interesting thought.

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