A brief bit about asteroid 2012 DA14

By Phil Plait | March 19, 2012 7:00 am

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is a rock about 40 meters (130 feet) across that passed very close to Earth last month, and will pass even closer in February of next year. Calculations indicate it will pass about 22,000 km (14,000 miles) from the Earth’s surface on February 15, 2013. And it will miss.

I was a bit surprised not to be able to find good images of the rock — only a bit, since it’s small and faint — but the European Space Agency just released a nice animated gif showing it moving across the field of stars:

This was taken by the La Sagra Sky Survey in southern Spain, by the folks who discovered the asteroid in the first place. And, it turns out, one of the reason they were able to find it at all was because they got a small grant from The Planetary Society which they used to upgrade a detector on one of their telescopes! The Shoemaker Near-Earth Object grants specifically go to observatories to help them find potentially threatening asteroids. Since 1997, The Planetary Society has given $235,000 in grants to the cause, which is fantastic.

The threat from asteroids is quite real, and something we need to understand better. With folks like The Planetary Society (and, say, the B612 Foundation as well as NASA’s NEO program) out there doing the research and also helping others, we’re headed in the right direction.

Image credit: La Sagra/ESA

Related Posts:

No, asteroid 2012 DA14 will not hit us next year
Cool animation showing asteroid DA 14′s near miss next year
Asteroid 2011 AG5: a football-stadium-sized rock to watch carefully


Comments (14)

  1. Jeff

    best I can tell, asteroids those size hit earth about once a millienia, and cause damage a modest city size or if in ocean, a moderate tsunami. But if they hit a remote area, it wouldn’t be a world beater. Still, they have to be watched carefully, and what really scares me is how we always hear about these smaller but dangerous ones at the last minute or retroactively. And its so marginal, if they didn’t by chance get the grant to update equipment, we probably wouldn’t have even seen this one.

    I see at: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/

    on the neo sentry risk table, it says there are around 30 potential impacts with this one in the coming decades. I find how small these things are scary in that they can be perturbed around and no one is sure if they’ll hit . It’s like these potential impacts are rolls of dice.

  2. Hey, where did that post with Emily talking about this go? I just went back to show someone who was worried about this a bit of a primer, and I thought Emily did a wonderful job.

  3. Phil Plait sez:
    Calculations indicate it will pass about 22,000 km (14,000 miles) from the Earth’s surface on February 15, 2013…

    …or, as the Drudge Report would say, “IT’S COMING RIGHT FOR US!!!”

  4. Peter Davey

    As Larry Niven once said: “Sometimes the only defence against something is to be somewhere else when it happens.

    All those in favour of a Mars colony…..

  5. was this asteroid in orbit around the sun before..? was it only recently discovered..?

  6. Paul

    All those in favour of a Mars colony…..

    You know, Earth would still be more habitable than Mars, even in the aftermath of a end-Cretaceous size impact.

  7. Georg

    Such small ones might be the right thing
    to practice deflection methods.

  8. Jim

    In 1991, one about this size was detected only twice as far from us as the moon. While this isn’t a particularly near miss, it’s noteworthy that we didn’t see it coming. We discovered it AFTER it had already passed.

    Fortunately, Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994 was a bit of a wake up call for the world and people started taking this a lot more seriously.

  9. Markus Mencke


    Is the change of form I think to see in the animation due to the rotation of the asteroid, atmospheric conditions, or pure pareidolia?

    It coming so close next year… is there a chance of NASA (or ESA, Roskosmos or whomever) trying to intercept the rock, Deep-Impact-style (the probe, not the movie…)? Might get some nice spectra from it, this close…

  10. llewelly

    “You know, Earth would still be more habitable than Mars, even in the aftermath of a end-Cretaceous size impact.”

    ah, but consider the pathos, the drama, the grandeur, of the struggle the Martian colonists would face once Earth had been rendered unable to send them their essential supplies for a few years …

  11. Jeff

    #8: that is what scares me the most too, a small asteroid could be coming right toward us and even hit us before we saw it except the last few seconds. Many factors could contribute to that.

    I just saw an amazing new special on the Titanic that said that Titanic no way would have sunk were it not for the refractive effects of the atmosphere that night. The iceberg they hit was camoflouged by a mirage for 30 minutes and did not clear up until the last few seconds, and by then it was to late.

  12. nomad

    The Titanic news is rather a hoot since an inquiry conducted into the sinking revealed that the crew members charged with giving warning of obstacles were not equipped with either a spotlight or binoculars. (The spotlight at the bow of the ship was to be installed upon reaching the docks of New York.) Sometimes the simplest explanation- no matter how mundane- is the most reasonable.
    To the original subject:
    Like the spotlight and binoculars, providing sufficient funding for an early warning system in space could, at the very least, give enough time to leave an area under threat.

    Additionally something rarely mentioned about a meteor strike is the possibility of becoming a catalyst for setting off a nuclear war since the precise the nature of the disaster may not be understood before a military reaction is launched. A warning system could lessen that possibility as well.

  13. P.Dyson

    Rite points am going to make yes its small but not that small it could easy take out 2000 miles or more thats bigger than the uk would make around 5.0 on the scale how do you clear that size of land that fast? the sonic boom would deafen 1000’s and kill many many more in a population, why was we not told about the risk however small years ago? was this not spotted in 2005 first? and why is it named 2012 DA14 to me to have that name it as been tracked and modeled on a computer and run to its nearist inpact date, or it would be called 2026 DA14 or “2026 doomday avent 14” if this makes land on inpacted soil dust and rock will be tossed high into the air darkening the skys if it hits the sea hot god help us…final point what if it hits nucular power plants or the power serving them….Remeber the world is over populated do you think anyone cares in power think again…so what do we do?we do what we do best look after our familys be ready for change stock up that all we can do, and maybe remeber how to pray lol tc everyone.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar