Incoming Asteroid's Flyby Streamed Live by NASA Today (Video)
The day has finally arrived. The asteroid named 2012 DA14 will zoom by Earth in a close shave at approximately 2:25 p.m. EST today. At its closest, the asteroid will be about 17,150 miles above the Earth's surface; it could be closer than some communications satellites.
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This asteroid, though, won't pose any issues for Earth--as opposed to the meteor strike that occurred last night in Russia. NASA has stated several times that the 148-foot-wide asteroid weighing approximately 143,000 tons will buzz by harmlessly later today.
If the asteroid was slated to hit Earth, though, there could have been some devastating consequences. The asteroid is similar in size to the one that leveled hundreds of square miles of Siberian forest in 1908 in what is known as the Tunguska event. If the asteroid were to plow into a populated area, that could mean massive damage. In addition, the resulting debris in the air after impact could cause secondary problems for people in the general vicinity.
Fortunately, NASA keeps close tabs on asteroids that are set to fly close to Earth. Every year, sensors designed to detect nuclear explosions view harmless bursts in the Earth's upper atmosphere from the breakup of an asteroid a few yards across. Yet it's not those that the agency is worried about. NASA's Near-Earth Object observations program supports surveys which search for the largest objects in space and predict their impact threat to Earth. Currently, there are 1,300 potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) floating in space. These are asteroids that are about 150 yards across and have a small chance of making an impact.
Instead of massive amounts of destruction, today's asteroid will bring stargazers a rare opportunity to view the phenomenon. NASA will provide live commentary on the asteroid's approach online. In addition, near real-time imagery of the asteroid's flyby made available to NASA by astronomers in Australia and Europe, weather permitting, will be streamed online beginning about noon EST and continue through the afternoon at this website. Don't miss the show!