NASA has identified more than 4000 asteroids in space that can pose a threat to our home planet-Earth. No wonder, asteroids were one of the foremost reasons which completely wiped out the dangerous dinosaurs from earth. So what’s next? Here comes another reminder from the Solar System that we are not alone. No, I haven’t seen a science fiction disaster film lately, but this has been making headlines around the globe for the obvious reasons.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 is heading towards Earth on February 15, 2013, and astronomers are carefully tracking its course. They have estimated that when it comes closest to us, it will be within the orbit of the moon, i.e. 240,000 miles away, and also within the orbits of geosynchronous satellites, i.e. 26,000 miles. It’s one of the closest earth approaches which will be occurring about 19:26 UTC. And this is quite a record-setting approach for a known object of its size ever witnessed in space science.
It is 45 meters across i.e. 150 feet long and has a mass of 130,000 metric tons. If an object like this strikes earth, its destruction would be equivalent to an explosion of 2.4 megatons of TNT. This is almost 200 times more powerful then the Little Boy atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 which exploded with an energy of about 12.5 kilotons of TNT.
However, the question arises here is; will Asteroid 2012 DA14 strike us? Will it bring any destruction with it? The answer is a clear “NO”. All the risks and probabilities of this asteroid to hit the earth have been ruled out by the astronomers. The asteroid will neither alter the tides nor would it cause volcanoes. Nevertheless, this journey of the asteroid will give unique chances and opportunities for researchers to study the peculiarities of asteroids more closely. So you need not worry as now you can enjoy your valentine’s day without getting the blues for the next day.
Amazing Facts about the safe flyby of Asteroid 2012 DA14:
- It was discovered by the astronomers in Southern Spain at the La Sagra Sky Survey Program in Feb 2012.
- The asteroid has magnitude of 7 on the brightness scale, which means it will be somewhat fainter for a naked eye to see, but can be visible through solidly mounted binoculars and small telescopes.
- The path of this asteroid recurrently comes in contact with the earth’s orbit in every six months. The last time this asteroid passed our planets was on the 16th Feb 2012.
- The orbital path of this asteroid is 366 days. It approached Earth on 16th Feb 2012 and is retracing its steps after a gap of exactly one year, i.e., 15th Feb 2013.
- The asteroid will fly at a startling high speed of 17,400 mph, i.e. 7.8 kilometers per second.
- The best viewing location to experience its stirring closest approach will be Indonesia. Africa, Asia and some parts of Europe will also get to enjoy stargazing for some time.
- On average, such objects come in very close contact with Earth once in every 40 years.
- Asteroid 2012 DA14 is estimated to be as big as half a football field.
- Chances are there that if there is any alteration in the path of Asteroid 2012 DA14, it could also bring it closer to the Earth in the near future.
- In 1908, an asteroid about the same size that of 2012 DA14 which exploded in Siberia had leveled hundreds of square miles of forests.
- Scientists estimate that this happens once in 1,200 years that such big sized asteroid flies this close to the Earth.
- There is a cumulative risk of 0.033% for this asteroid to impact Earth in 2026-2069.
Keep watching the skies!
Even if, it’s not posing a threat for us in 2013, we definitely need to keep our eyes on this fellow to see if it can be a potential threat in the time to come. And if ever it does, then you can be assured as you’ll be hearing about it from me in my blogs. Till then spiral out and keep going!