Friday 16 March 2012

Asteroid 2012 DA14 may pass within 21 000 km of the Earth.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 was discovered on 23 February 2012 by the automated La Sagra Sky Survey Observatory in Spain (the name implies the 350th asteroid discovered in the second week of February 2012). It was flagged as a potentially Earth-impacting Near Earth Asteroid; alarming since it is 44 m across with a mass of roughly 120 000 tonnes. Such an asteroid would have a devastating, but localized, effect should it impact the Earth.

The path of 2012 DA14 about the sun intersects the orbit of the Earth twice a year, though not necessarily near to the position of the Earth. Philip Plait/Discovery Magazine.

Now researchers at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have calculated that 2012 DA14 will pass no closer than 20 406 km of the Earth's surface, on 15 February 2013. This is within the orbit of many satellites, and should be visible to Earth-based astronomers with binoculars.

The path 2012 DA14 will take as it passes the Earth. The Geostationary Ring is the orbit occupied by satellites in geostationary orbit, i.e. an orbit that keeps them above a set point on the Earth. NASA/JPL/Near-Earth Object Program Office.

2012 DA14 is thought to have come within 2 500 000 km of the Earth (six times as far as the moon) 0n 16 February this year (2012), only being detected as it moved away from us. The next close encounter between the asteroid and Earth will be in 2020, when it is calculated there is less than a 1 in 83 000 chance of a collision.