NASA says asteroid will have close call with Earth

Feb 12, 2013 | Biz/Tech

Eros (as shown above) is an asteroid with an orbit that takes it somewhat close to Earth, similar to DA14. “Nasa observed Eros and dozens of other near-Earth asteroids as part of an ongoing survey to study their sizes and compositions using infrared light.”
Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL

By Kaite Boivin

An asteroid the size of a football field will closely pass by Earth this Friday, missing us by just 15 minutes.

The asteroid will not collide with Earth, but researchers say it’s a close call.

The asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass so closely it’ll be within the ring of weather and communications satellites, NASA said in a press release.

“The big show will be starting about 9 in the morning,” Eric Briggs, Secretary with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, told Humber News.

It will be closest to Earth around 2:24 p.m. EST on Friday, NASA said.

At that point it will be at a distance of about 27,700 km from Earth’s surface over the equator – not visible to the naked eye.

“Diagram depicting the passage of asteroid 2012 DA14 through the Earth-moon system on Feb. 15, 2013.”
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“This passage of 2012 DA14 by Earth is a record close approach for a known object of this size,” NASA stated in the release.

DA14 will squeak between Earth and the satellites, said Andrew Fazekas, the astronomical society’s Director of Communications in Montreal.

“It’s really quite impressive,” said Fazekas, who’s also the astronomy correspondent at The Weather Network.

He added that near Earth objects are of concern as there are hundreds of thousands of them out there. But Briggs said most asteroids stay between Mars and Jupiter.

Astronomers have identified 94 per cent of the asteroids large enough to wipe out civilization, as is theorized for the extinction of the dinosaurs, Fazekas said.

“Currently there’s none that are on an Earth trajectory, so that’s good news,” he said.

Fazekas said it’s the smaller ones like DA14, about 45 metres wide, that we need to be alert for.

We know there are a “half a million of these that are hanging around in Earth’s orbit, but only one per cent of those have been found,” Fazekas said.

“If an asteroid of this size potentially impacted Earth it would have the equivalent energy of 180 Hiroshima bombs.”

On average, an object of this size passes this close to Earth about once every 40 years, said NASA.

The space agency said it’s only about once every 1,200 years a collision occurs.

This close call will allow astronomers to map the asteroid path, look at how it’s spinning, and determine what materials it is composed of, Fazekas said.

Bill Nye, spoke with CNN about the approaching asteroid.

He said people should “get nervous, but not about this one.”