Asteroid 2012 DA14 to Fly by Earth Feb 15: Closest Known Approach to Earth

First Posted: Feb 11, 2013 05:03 AM EST

Our planet is going to encounter a large chunk of rock Feb. 15.  A 130,000 metric ton asteroid 2012 DA14 that is about the size of a football field will pass within 17,200 miles of the Earth i.e., a remarkably close distance.

According to NASA, that's closer than any similar-sized asteroid has gotten without crashing into the planet as far as scientists know. It is one of 500,000 asteroids of various sizes in the immediate cosmic neighborhood.

The asteroid, which is traveling at 4.8 miles per second, will accelerate as it travels from the southern evening sky to the northern morning sky as it approaches the Earth. This asteroid is not visible with the naked eye. It will show up again in February 2110.

As reported in Post Gazette, if the asteroid collides with Earth, it would do major damage to a reasonable-sized city. And if it crashed into oceans, there could be tsunamis and tidal waves. But according to the scientists, the asteroid will not collide with Earth.

"Objects this size come close to Earth roughly every 30 years or so," said astronomer Dave Reneke from Australasian Science Magazine. "For a brief time it should be bright enough that anyone with a small telescope or binoculars to spot it. The chance of a collision with one of our communication satellites is small, but not impossible."

As the asteroid journeys close to the Earth, scientists will use radar to study DA14 and gain more information about its composition and structure. Apart from this, they could also get some information on how it evolved in the solar system. It is a mystery whether the asteroid contains water, but scientists will reveal this after studying the composition of the rock.

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