Thursday, February 14, 2013

This will be Close!

Looking over the shoulder of asteroid 2012 DA14. In the center of the view is our home. This would be the view from the asteroid today, February 14. It will be a much closer view tomorrow!

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is in the news this week, because of its extremely close approach to the Earth. At its closest approach, it will be just about 17,000 miles above the country of Indonesia at 12:25 pm MST. So while you're having your lunch break tomorrow, spare a few minutes to think about how blessed we are that this is just a near-miss. Perhaps ponder on the prehistoric hits that cause the extinctions of dinosaurs or other species. And consider that it is still entirely possible that yet some future asteroid, unknown to us at present could smack us a good one with dire consequences.

But not this one! DA14 is going to pass so close that it will fly inside the ring of geosynchronous satellites, prompting some alarmists to fear disruption to our communications satellites. However, the Space Data Association and NASA have calculated the trajectory of the rock and determined that it will not come any closer than 1,000 km to any space satellite. You can read more of their calculations here:

Calculated path of the asteroid. Times are Greenwhich Mean Time. Looking down over the North Pole. Notice the effect of gravity upon the asteroid's path. 

DA14 is approaching Earth from the Southern Hemisphere, so observers in the northern countries won't be able to observe it until it is right on us and passing by. You can learn more about DA14, and see more trajectory calculations and videos at NASA's website:

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