Asteroid closely passes by Earth today
by Carly Grady
Feb 15, 2013 | 4511 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most local astronomy fans are aware of the NASA Fireball camera pictured with Tellus Astronomy Program Manager David Dundee that is mounted on top of the Tellus Science Museum building. Although the camera is excellent at tracking meteorites, it will not be able to capture the 2012 DA 14 asteroid that will be closest to earth at about 2:24 p.m. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, File
Most local astronomy fans are aware of the NASA Fireball camera pictured with Tellus Astronomy Program Manager David Dundee that is mounted on top of the Tellus Science Museum building. Although the camera is excellent at tracking meteorites, it will not be able to capture the 2012 DA 14 asteroid that will be closest to earth at about 2:24 p.m. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, File
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An asteroid, 150 feet in diameter, will pass a distance of 17,200 miles from Earth today at 2:24 p.m., making it the closest an object of its size has ever passed our planet. It will not be visible to Georgia residents and has no chance of hitting Earth.

“There’s celestial objects passing by all the time and so this one is kind of close. I mean 17,000 miles may seem like a long way away, but in space that’s not that much,” said Tellus Science Museum Director Jose Santamaria.

The distance the asteroid will pass our planet is about 1/13 the distance from Earth to the Moon.

“Most asteroids go in a round orbit between Mars and Jupiter and that’s where they stay. Then once in a while a few of them get knocked off orbit and they may collide or gravitational pull may knock it off orbit and that’s when it starts deviating and sometimes it crosses paths with other planets including the Earth,” said Santamaria.

Tellus Science Museum Astronomer David Dundee said asteroid 2012 DA 14 has no chance of hitting Earth on Friday or anytime in the forseeable future.

If the asteroid did hit, Dundee said it would flatten an area of about 750 miles in diameter, which according to distancefromto.net is about the same distance from Cartersville to New York City.

“It’s more complicated than that,” said Santamaria. “It depends on the angle it hits. Actually if an asteroid like that hit the Earth before disintegrating, [it would cause] different damage than if it explodes half a mile above us. The damage could actually be more wide spread.”

Santamaria says this is nothing to lose sleep over; you have a better chance at being hit by lightning.

“I mean historically, asteroids have been known to hit the Earth. One possible occurrence happened just a little bit over 100 years ago in Siberia. When you had one, twice the size of the one we’re talking about exploded, just pulverized over Siberia, in an unpopulated area so nobody got killed. No destruction happened, but about 80,000 trees got flattened. It was an area of over 2,000 square miles,” said Santamaria. “So if that would have happened over New York City, that would have been bad news.”

Asteroids are made out of the same basic rock material that the Earth is made out of. They are essentially small bodies, smaller than planets that orbit around the sun.

Asteroid 2012 DA 14 is 150 feet across, which is roughly the length of half a football field. Even though the asteroid will be passing Earth so closely, it will not be visible due to the time of day.

“It’s going to be around like 2:30 [p.m.] when [the asteroid] is going to pass the closest and so obviously our telescope can see things in daytime but it has to be something really big, like the sun or the moon and so an asteroid that size, I’m not even sure we could pick it up, but if we could, it would have to be at night,” said Santamaria.

Astronomers will continue to track asteroid 2012 DA 14. For more information, including graphics and animations showing the flyby of 2012 DA 14 visit www.nasa.gov/asteroidflyby or call Tellus Science Museum at 770-606-5700.