Asteroid 2012 DA14 to Hit Earth? Not Likely, But a Record Approach

Asteroid 2012 DA14

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is set to pass by Earth in a record setting close shave on February 15, 2013. The asteroid will come even closer than the moon.

It’s going to come within 17,200 miles of Earth, reports NASA scientists. “This is a record-setting close approach,” Don Yeomans, the head of NASA’s asteroid-tracking program, said in a statement. “Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we’ve never seen an object this big get so close to Earth.”

Weighing roughly 143,000 tons and measuring 148 feet long, about half the size of a football field, the asteroid was discovered last year by an amateur team of astronomers at the La Sagra Sky Survey observatory in Spain.

NASA asteroid expert Don Yeomans compares this asteroid to the one that leveled hundreds of square miles of Siberian forest in the “Tunguska Event” in 1908.

With that said, there’s no threat of the asteroid colliding with Earth this go-rough. “Asteroid 2012 DA14 will definitely not hit Earth. The orbit of the asteroid is known well enough to rule out an impact,” said Yeomans, who heads the Near-Earth Object Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The odds that the asteroid could slam into a satellite are also extremely remote.”

Even if DA14 did decide to make a turn for the worse and head towards Earth, the impact wouldn’t be cataclysmic, unless you happened to be in it’s path.

A similar sized object created a mile wide crater in Arizona. That one was made of metal, devastating the area 50 miles around, reports Fox News. “That asteroid was made of iron,” says Yeomans, “which made it an especially potent impactor.”

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is a typical size of an asteroid and Earth comes into close contact with these types of asteroid every 40-50 years. “Earth is only hit by them every 1,200 years,” Yeomans estimated.

NASA plans on tracking the asteroid closely as it makes it’s way in closer with Earth. NASA will use its Goldstone radar in California’s Mojave Desert to follow the asteroid from Feb. 16 to Feb. 20. “The asteroid will be racing across the sky, moving almost a full degree (or twice the width of a full moon) every minute,” Yeomans said. “That’s going to be hard to track.”

Asteroid 2012 DA14 Record Setting Approach to Earth

On Feb. 15th an asteroid about half the size of a football field will fly past Earth closer than many man-made satellites. Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, astronomers have never seen an object so big come so close to our planet.

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