Small near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass very close to Earth on February 15, so close that it will pass inside the ring of geosynchronous weather and communications satellites. NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office can accurately predict the asteroid’s path with the observations obtained, and it is therefore known that there is no chance that the asteroid might be on a collision course with Earth. Nevertheless, the flyby will provide a unique opportunity for researchers to study a near-Earth object up close. Here are the facts about the safe flyby of Earth of asteroid 2012 DA14 — a record close approach for a known object of this size.
The Flyby of Asteroid 2012 DA14 – A Discussion with Don Yeomans of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
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An animation depicting the trajectory of asteroid 2012 DA14 as it travels within the Earth-moon system on Feb. 15, 2013.
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An overview of near-Earth objects with emphasis on the upcoming close approach of asteroid 2012 DA14.
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› Larger viewGraphic depicts the trajectory of asteroid 2012 DA14 during its close approach, as seen edge-on to Earth’s equatorial plane. The graphic demonstrates why the asteroid is invisible to northern hemisphere observers until just before close approach: it is approaching from “underneath” our planet. On the other hand, after close approach it will be favorably placed for observers in the northern hemisphere. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Q: What is asteroid DA14
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A: Asteroid 2012 DA14 is a small near-Earth object – approximately 150 feet (45 meters) in diameter. On Feb. 15, 2013, the asteroid will pass by our planet at a remarkably close distance, but the asteroid’s path is understood well enough that there is no chance of a collision with the Earth.
Q: What date and what time will the asteroid be closest to Earth?
A: Asteroid 2012 DA14 will be closest to Earth on Feb. 15 at approximately 19:24 UTC (2:24 p.m. EST/11:24 a.m. PST). This time may change by a minute or two as the asteroid is tracked on its approach and predictions are refined.
At the time of closest approach, the asteroid will be over the eastern Indian Ocean, off Sumatra — approx. latitude: -6 deg South. / longitude: 97.5 deg East.
Q: How far away will asteroid 2012 DA14 be at time of closest approach?
A: Asteroid 2012 DA14 will be only about 17,200 miles (27,700 kilometers) above Earth’s surface at the time of closest approach on Feb 15, 2013. This distance is well outside Earth’s atmosphere, but it is inside the belt of satellites in geostationary orbit, which is located 22,200 miles (35,800 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. The close-approach distance is only about one-tenth the distance between Earth and moon. Another way to express the distance between asteroid and Earth at time of closest approach is 4.4 Earth radii from Earth’s surface – or about twice the diameter of the Earth.
Q: Could asteroid DA14 impact Earth?
A: No. The orbit of asteroid 2012 DA14 is well understood – it will not come any closer than 17,150 miles (27,650 kilometers) above Earth’s surface during its flyby on Feb 15, 2013.
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