Close shave for earth on February 15th

Come February 15th, a day after the Valentine’s Day, planet Earth will have its closest shave in recorded history from being hit by an asteroid. The asteroid was discovered only last year, by astronomers operating from the La Sagra Sky Survey observatory near Granada in southern Spain. Named 2012 DA14, the 164 ft long asteroid will whizz past our planet with a speed of 17,400mph, at a distance of just 14,913 miles (24,000km) – closer than many commercial satellites.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 coming close to earth

Don Yeomans of NASA’s Near Earth Object Programme said: “It will be a record-setting close approach since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s.” He explains that a similar-sized object formed the mile-wide Meteor Crater in Arizona when it hit about 50,000 years ago. He further added that in 1908 an asteroid estimated to be 131ft (40m) long exploded over Tunguska in Siberia, flattening 772 square miles (2,000 sq km) of forest.
Don Yeomans of NASA further confirmed that: “2012 DA14 will definitely not hit Earth.” However he said the asteroid in question, could wipe out a large city if it hit Earth. The asteroid will come closer to Earth than the ring of geosynchronous satellites, which are in orbit about 22,200 miles above the Earth.
Experts said, that the asteroid 2012 DA14, half the size of a football pitch and with the destructive power of an H-bomb, if enters the Earth’s atmosphere and explode, the force would be enough to destroy an area the size of Greater London.
Dr Gerhard Drolshagen, a near-Earth object observer from the European Space Agency’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) office, said: “In future times the possibility of a collision cannot be completely excluded. It is highly unlikely, but the chance is greater than zero.”
The asteroid’s next very close shave with Earth will be in 2046, when it will whizz past us at a distance of 37,000 miles. And there’s another close encounter in 97 years’ time, on February 16 2110.
NASA experts says that the asteroid by the catchy name of 2012 DA14 won’t be bright enough to see with the naked eye, but that a good pair of binoculars or a telescope should be able to pick it out.
On the 15th, said NASA, the asteroid will travel rapidly from the southern evening sky into the northern morning sky, with its closest Earth approach occurring about 19:26 UTC when it will achieve a magnitude of less than seven, which is somewhat fainter than naked eye visibility. About four minutes after its Earth close approach, there is a good chance it will pass into the Earth’s shadow for about 18 minutes or so before reappearing from the eclipse.
The best view for astronomers will be from Indonesia, says NASA, while stargazers in Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia should also be able to get a good look at the space rock as it whizzes past us at a speed of 17,400mph.

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