Image of Gaspra Approach October 29, 1991

Close Encounter with Asteroid 2012 DA14

Asteriod 2012 DA14
Asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass closest on February 15, 2013. This is the first recorded asteroid of this size to have passed earth so closely, and its still a small one. Click to View larger. Image Credit: NASA

On Friday February 15 2013 or Saturday February 16 2013 (depending where you live in the world), Asteroid 2012 DA14 will be making a close encounter with Earth. Asteroid 2012 DA14 has not been in our scope of  perception for long, but already we have been able to study its approach and prepare a projection of its flyby past Earth.

Discovered a year ago in February 2012, astronomers from Observatorio Astronómico de La Sagra in  Spain, reported the Near Earth Object to the Minor Planet Center. The passage of the asteroid at the time was quite far away close to seven times the distance to the moon. The asteroid’s orbital period around the Sun is very close to Earth’s at about 368 days. As the Asteroid revolves around the Sun, it has been gradually coming closer to Earth on each approach with 2013 being the closest it will have come in our recorded history.

Close Encounter to Earth

Asteroid 2012 DA14 close encounter with Earth will see the asteroid pass inside the ring of geosynchronous weather and communications satellites. As there has been ample warning and preparation time, NASA’s NEO Program Office have advised that there is an “unlikely” chance that it will cause any problems. Researchers are excited that such a close flyby will give them a unique opportunity to study a Near Earth Object up close and almost personal.

Scientists can accurately predict an asteroid’s path with the observations obtained and over the twelve months since it was first discovered they have been able to chart its path. Asteroid 2012 DA14 will fly past around 35,800 kilometers (22,200 miles) above the equator through Earth’s satellites and above the orbit of the International Space Station. The closest they expect it to come is 1/13th the distance between the Earth and the Moon.  When you really think about it, that’s pretty darn closeNASA NEO scientists however, are confident that there is no chance that the asteroid will collide with Earth, a great disappointment for doomsayers.

As the asteroid is not emitting a great deal of light, astronomers predict that Asteroid 2012 DA14 is only about 45 meters (150 feet) across. This classifies it as a small near earth object. If you want to be able to view the asteroid in most places on Earth, it will not be visible with the naked eye. You will need a good pair of binoculars or a small telescope to see it.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 Artists impession
Artist’s impression of Asteroid 2012 DA 14 on its way to Earth. Image Credit: NASA

Best Viewing Locations & Times for Asteroid 2012 DA14

Indonesia is the best viewing location for the asteroids closest approach, where it will be over the eastern Indian Ocean, off Sumatra . — approx. latitude: -6 deg South. / longitude: 97.5 deg East — Time: Saturday 16th February at 02:24 a.m. (Jakarta)

Eastern Europe and Asia are also two more places well situated to see the asteroid around its closest approach, in  Belgrade 15th February  at 08:24 pm and in Beijing it will be Saturday 16 February at 03.24 a.m.

Australia is being touted as the second best location to view the asteroid.  On Saturday 16 February from about 05:24 a.m. (QUEENSLAND) it should become visible with the aid of binoculars. [Update 15/02 Courier Mail: suggests to start looking as early as 03:30 am just below the Southern Cross.)

If you don’t see your time listed above, you can check obtain the time for the NEO flyby at the Event Time Announcer set up at TimeandDate.com.

Watch it Live From the Comfort of  Your Home with NASA

For those not fortunate enough to be able to witness this event from their location (sorry USA you miss out this time).  NASA will be providing a live commentary on its approach and path, past Earth.  Time: 11:25 a.m. PST (2:25 p.m. EST / 19:25 UTC.)   Learn More about NASA’s chronicle of Asteroid 2012 DA14.

The Return of Asteroid 2012 DA14

Asteroid 2012 DA14’s current flight path through space will shorten the orbital period to about 317 days. Future close approaches are predicted to follow a different pattern. The close approach this year is the closest the asteroid will come for at least the next 3 decades.

This is the first known asteroid of this size to pass so close to Earth in recent recorded history. There have been a few other events of a smaller size that have passed even closer.

The Tunguska event in Russia in 1908 is thought to have been caused by a Near Earth Object Impact.  Even though there is a theory that the event occurred above the surface of the planet and may have been caused by either an Asteroid or a Comet, it is still counted as an Impact event due to the large explosion and devastation it caused. Wiping out over 80 million trees and covering an area of 2,150 square kilometers (830 sq mi) the blast is thought to have perhaps registered about 5 on the Richter scale with the energy released anywhere from 5 to 30 megatons of TNT.  But don’t worry:  NASA is absolutely positive that Asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass by without incident.

Statistics predict that Earth should experience a Near Earth Object getting this close every 40 years or so. On average we can expect every 1,200 years an actual collision with Earth by an object of this size.

If you are not already heading to the bunker for safety, you can learn much more about Near Earth Objects at Nasa JPL.

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