Friday, 15 February 2013

Earth’s close call

Owen Gethings

As far as close shaves go, this Friday the 15th the Earth will be sailing pretty close to the wind. The small Near Earth asteroid, 2012 DA14 is currently hurtling towards us at 25,791mph (or 11.53km/second) and will pass Earth at a distance of 17,200 miles. That doesn’t seem very close but let me put that into perspective. The asteroid will pass within the ring of geosynchronous communication and weather satellites currently orbiting at 22,200 miles above the equator. Although NASA’s NEO program, that currently monitors around 9697 Near Earth Objects, with 961 of these being larger than 1km, say the asteroid will not hit us, it does give researchers an opportunity to study the large object. The asteroid will be visible through binoculars, albeit a very faint spec of light crossing the sky. The asteroid will be visible in the constellation leo, travelling towards the plough at around 7:30pm UK time.

The trajectory of DA14