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February 15th 2013: close flyby of Asteroid 2012 DA14

Asteroid 2012 DA14 will have a very close flyby on February 15th 2013.

2012 DA14
Image credit: La Sagra/ESA

2012 DA14 is an asteroid that was discovered last year by astronomers at the Spanish Observatorio Astronómico de La Sagra, after it already had flown by.

It was calculated that 2012 DA14 would return to earth and pass by even closer on February 15th 2013.

2012 DA14
Image credit: NASA/JPL
Geostationary ring and 2012 DA14’s track through this ring.

With only 0.9 Lunar Distance, about 30.000 km distance from the center of the earth, ca. 23.000km above our heads, this lump of rock of about 60 m across will pass by closer than the geostationary satellites hovering above us. Despite it being so close it will however not be visible to the naked eye.


Traject of geostationary satellites

It is one of the 1372 currently known PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids). PHAs are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU (1 AU, Astronomical Unit, roughly the distance between sun and earth, now defined as 149,597,870,700 m.

2005 YU55

Image credit: NASA/JPL
This is not the first time an asteroid flies by so close. On 11.8.11 (November 8th 2011) 2005 YU55 flew by at a distance of 0.85LD. 2005 YU55 is quite a bit bigger compared to 2012 DA14; 400m in diameter.

4179 Toutatis

Another giant is circling through Earth’s path: 4179 Toutatis.
On December 12 2012 Toutatis passed within about 18 lunar distances of the Earth. On December 13, the Chinese lunar probe Chang’e 2, launched in 2010 on a lunar mission, flew by Toutatis at a distance of 3.2 kilometers and a relative velocity of 10.73 km/s.
Toutatis will approach Earth in 2016, but will not make a notably close approach until 2069. (Source: Wikipedia)

99942 Apophis

Herschel‘s Three-Color view of Asteroid Apophis, image by ESA
And there was another one not long ago: 99942 Apophis.

99942 Apophis is a near-Earth asteroid that caused a brief period of concern in December 2004 because initial observations indicated a probability of up to 2.7% that it would strike the Earth in 2029 . However, after the recalculations done around January 9th 2013 when it flew by; a chance on an impact in 2029 or 2036 has been minimalized. (Source: Wikipedia)

But for this 2012 DA14, there’s not much to worry for now.

* The asteroid 2012 DA14 will not impact Earth on February 15, 2013.
* There is a 1 in 7,692,308,000 chance of 2012 DA14 impacting Earth on 16 February 2110.

If it were to hit the Earth, it is estimated that it would produce the equivalent of 2.4 megatons of TNT. The Tunguska event has been estimated at 3 ? 20 megatons.

If you want to know the difference between asteroids, comets, meteoroids, meteors or meteorites, look here.

There are some pages of interest on social media like facebook for 2012 DA 14 and if you want to book your trip to 2012 DA14 you can probably book your trip on this facebook page.

A joke? No. Well, so far only unmanned satellites visit Asteroids and that list is growing. Here is a list of Asteroids visited by Spacecraft.

And if you want to see what else is going on in the sky; here is what to look forward to in 2013. That is, if we survive all these asteroid flybys of course.

See also
Home – a space exploration
What if Mars was our moon
Educational space
A collection of space videos
Asteroid, comet, meteoroid, meteor or meteorite?

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