On February 15, 2013, Asteroid 2012 DA14 will glide past Earth, coming within 27,700 km (or 17,200 miles), closer than our orbiting geosynchronous satellite ring.
As you can see in the above animation created by NASA, this will definitely be a close encounter.
Of course, scientists have been quick to point out that the asteroid, which measures 150 feet (45 meters) in diameter, will not hit Earth:
“NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office can accurately predict the asteroid’s path with the observations obtained, and it is therefore known that there is no chance that the asteroid might be on a collision course with Earth.”
Sooner Or Later
Asteroid 2012 DA14 was discovered by the LaSagra observatory in Spain around this time last year, when it came within 2.6 million km (1.6 million miles) of Earth.
It’s current trajectory will bring it closest around 2:24 p.m. EST, when it will cross “over the eastern Indian Ocean, off Sumatra.” If you’re interested, Universe Today has a fairly detailed guide on observing prospects.
2012 DA14, by the way, is in an elliptical orbit around Earth and will return, but this will be the closest the asteroid gets “for many decades.”
“On this date, 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.”
While 2012 DA14 poses no threat to Earth, some scientists warn that the asteroid may “take out” telecommunication or weather satellites.
Given how these things go, I doubt even that will happen. But sooner or later, our luck is going to run out. A small asteroid here, a near-miss there.
We’re due a massive impact, and eventually we’ll get one.
Just like the dinosaurs.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech