Asteroid 2012 DA14 will sweep close later today
2013-02-15 0:00

By Deborah Byrd |

It’ll pass within the moon’s distance from Earth – closer than the orbits of geosynchronous satellites. But it won’t strike us in 2013.

A near-Earth asteroid – called 2012 DA14 by astronomers – is passing very close to Earth today (February 15, 2013). Astronomers estimate that, when it’s closest to us, it’ll be within the orbit of the moon (which averages about a quarter million miles away), and closer than some high-orbiting communications satellites. 2012 DA14 will be about 17,200 miles (27,680 kilometers) away. Reuters is reporting than a meteorite has struck in Russia, injuring 500 people. It has not been confirmed whether the meteorite is associated with asteroid 2012 DA14, but astronomers do known that asteroids sometimes are accompanied by moon, or travel in swarms.

Who will see the February 15 asteroid flyby?

Asteroid 2012 DA14 won’t be visible to the eye, but you can watch the February 15 asteroid flyby online, in real-time.

The main asteroid – 2012 DA14 – is not expected to strike us in 2013, NASA says. There was a remote possibility it might strike us in 2020, but that possibility has been ruled out also.

What will happen when Asteroid 2012 DA14 passes closely in 2013?

Most of us won’t see the large asteroid 2012 DA14 or be aware of its passage, in any way. 2012 DA14 is not large enough to alter the tides. It won’t cause volcanoes. It’ll just sweep closely past us – as millions of asteroids have done throughout Earth’s four-and-a-half-billion-year history – some in your own lifetime. It appears, however, that asteroid 2012 DA14 was accompanied by another object, which astronomers did not detect until it struck in Russia, injuring hundreds.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 will be within range for small telescopes and solidly mounted binoculars, used by experienced observers who have access to appropriate stars charts. Indonesia is favored for viewing, because it will be the middle of the night there when the asteroid is closest. Europe and the Middle East will also be in a location to view the asteroid, potentially. But this will be a challenging observation. Even those familiar with using binoculars and telescopes will need some experience to track the object as it moves rapidly across the sky.


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