Giant Asteroid Will Zoom by Earth, According to NASA (Video)
It may not be the asteroid apocalypse that was predicted for 2036, but NASA has announced that a huge asteroid will zoom by Earth on February 15. The asteroid, called 2012 DA14, will be able to be seen by telescopes. Stargazers, get ready.
The massive asteroid weighs approximately 143,000 tons and measures 148 feet in length. This asteroid, in other words, is about half the size of a football field. It's similar in size to the one that is believed to have leveled hundreds of square miles of Siberian forest in 1908 in what is known as the Tunguska Event.
Unlike the 1908 asteroid, though, this one will buzz by Earth harmlessly-though it is passing close. It will fly a mere 17,200 miles above the planet's surface.
"This is a record-setting close approach," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object Program, according to NASA. "Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we've never seen an object this big get so close to Earth."
According to NASA, Earth's neighborhood is littered with asteroids of all shapes and sizes. They range from fragments smaller than volleyballs to monstrous rocks the size of football fields. The one that's passing close to earth, though, is a fairly typical near-Earth asteroid. It's actually only medium-sized compared with some of the other behemoths out there. Yet Yeomans estimates that one this size flies past Earth only once every 40 years.
If you're interested in seeing the asteroid, though, you should be able to--assuming you're fast enough. The asteroid's speed will make it hard to track, since it's estimated to move twice the width of the moon across the sky for every minute that it's visible.
If you don't trust in your asteroid-tracking skills, never fear. NASA has created a video simulation of the event. Check it out below.