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Space Asteroid to Come Within Record Distance From Earth Friday

Asteroid to Come Within Record Distance From Earth Friday

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First Posted: Feb 15, 2013 12:03 AM EST
Asteroid
Astronomers have made a surprising discovery. They've found the first Trojan asteroid sharing the orbit of Uranus and believe that it could be part of a larger-than-expected population of similar objects. The findings could shed light on the distant planet. (Photo : Pixabay)

The asteroid 2012 DA14 is set to pass Earth Friday at a recording-breaking distance of roughly 17 miles – lower than most communication and television satellites.

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The 14,000-ton rock, half the size of a football field, will whizz past our planet at 19:25 GMT. NASA scientists have said that though it would certainly be a close call (the closer we have in memory for an object that size), impact is unlikely. It will pass closer even than the geosynchronous satellites that orbit the Earth, but there is no risk of impacts or collisions.

In parts of the globe in darkness around the time the rock will pass, it will be visible using good binoculars or a telescope. Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia will be the places privileged with the best view of it.

The asteroid orbits the Sun in 368 days - a period similar to Earth's year - but it does not orbit in the same plane as the Earth.

But keen viewers anywhere can find one of several live streams of the event on the internet, including a feed from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Nasa, available from 19:00 GMT.

2012 DA14 was first spotted in February 2012 by astronomers at the La Sagra Sky Survey in Spain - once a fairly small-scale, amateur effort to discover and track asteroids that has in recent years become a significant contributor to our knowledge of these "near-Earth objects".

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