Asteroid to pass close by Earth tonight

Asteroid

A newly discovered asteroid about half the size of a football field will pass nearer to Earth than any other known object of its size on Friday, giving scientists a rare opportunity for close-up observations without launching a probe.

At its closest approach, which will occur at 2:24 p.m. EST/1924 GMT, the asteroid will pass about 17,200 miles (27,520 km) above the planet traveling at 8 miles (13 km) per second, bringing it nearer than the networks of television and weather satellites that ring the planet.

Although Asteroid 2012 DA14 is the largest known object of its size to pass this close, scientists say there is no chance of an impact, this week or in the foreseeable future.

Currently, DA14 matches Earth's year-long orbit around the sun, but after Friday's encounter its flight path will change, said astronomer Donald Yeomans, with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"The close approach will perturb its orbit so that actually instead of having an orbital period of one year, it'll lose a couple of months," Yeomans said. "The Earth is going to put this one in an orbit that is considerably safer," he said.

The non-profit Space Data Association, which tracks satellites for potential collisions, analyzed the asteroid's projected path and determined no spacecraft would be in its way.

"There is no reason to believe that this asteroid poses a threat to any satellites in Earth orbit," Space Data operations manager T.S. Kelso said in a statement.

For scientists, DA14 presents a rare, albeit short, opportunity to study an asteroid close-up. In addition to trying to determine what minerals it contains, which is of potential commercial interest as well as scientific, astronomers want to learn more about the asteroid's spin rate. The information not only will be useful to plotting DA14's future visits but could help engineers develop techniques to thwart more threatening asteroids.

... contd.

Please read our terms of use before posting comments
TERMS OF USE: The views expressed in comments published on indianexpress.com are those of the comment writer's alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Indian Express Group or its staff. Comments are automatically posted live; however, indianexpress.com reserves the right to take it down at any time. We also reserve the right not to publish comments that are abusive, obscene, inflammatory, derogatory or defamatory.