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Asteroid 2012 DA14 That Will Harmlessly Fly By Earth At A Distance Of 21,200 Miles On Friday, February 15, 2013.

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by
Anura Guruge


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Though many don’t realize this I spent quite a bit of time working on astronomy, these days even at the expense of Popes and cardinals.


Artistic rendition of 2012 DA14 passing by Earth on February 15, 2013.


Orbital diagram of the flyby.


This is Way Cool.

A dynamic orbit tracker from NASA’s JPL.
Try it out if you have Java installed.
Click to access JPL. [Orbit diagram], collapsed, will be at the top. You need Java.

Click to access JPL. [Orbit diagram], collapsed, will be at the top. You need Java.


It was discovered last year, on February 23, 2012, by a Spanish observatory.

It is an Earth-crosser asteroid that orbits the Sun every 366.2 days. Since it furthest point from the Sun, aphelion is beyond Earth’s orbit, crosses Earth’s orbital path twice a year. It has been probably been doing this for millions of years, though we now have precise data going back to August 1913.

It is not very big, about 160 ft across and weighing about 180,000 tons. It would do a fair amount of damage if it were to hit the Earth. It will not do so this year! But this is a record close approach. So much so that Earth’s gravity will perturb its orbital path reducing its orbital period by 51 days. That is a big deal.

There is an increasing chance that it might actually get around to hitting the Earth post 2080 — so 67 years from now. So our kids will have to keep an eye out. Asteroids of this size do hit the Earth every 1200 years or so. We are due. DA14 would not be the end of the World. It is too small. It could destroy a city. There was smaller asteroid that entered Earth’s atmosphere, above Russia, in 1908 and exploded in the sky before hitting the ground. It destroyed about 80 million trees over a 830 square mile area,