Well it seems that Earth has survived yet another close shave with an asteroid. This time around, the object in question was a celestial body known as DA14, a rock measuring 45 meters (150 feet) in diameter and weighing in at 130,000 metric tons in mass. Discovered last year by astronomers working out of the La Sagra Sky Survey at the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca, this asteroid performed the closest fly-by of Earth ever observed by astronomers.
Basically, the asteroids passage took it within Earth’s geosynchronous satellite ring, at a paltry distance of 27,000 kilometers (17,000 miles). That may sound like its still pretty far away, but to give you a sense of scale, consider that Earth’s geosynchronous satellite ring, which the asteroid passed within, is located about 35,800 km above the equator. So basically, this asteroid was closer to you than the satellite that feeds your TV set. Scared yet?
Naturally, NASA was quick to let people know that DA14’s trajectory and orbit about the Sun would bring it no closer to the Earth’s surface than 3.2 Earth radii on February 15, 2013. In a statement released in advance of the asteroid’s passage, they claimed:
“There is very little chance that asteroid 2012 DA14 will impact a satellite or spacecraft. Because the asteroid is approaching from below Earth, it will pass between the outer constellation of satellites located in geosynchronous orbit (22,245 miles/35,800 kilometers) and the large concentration of satellites orbiting much closer to Earth. (The International Space Station, for example, orbits at the close-in altitude of 240 miles/386 kilometers.). There are almost no satellites orbiting at the distance at which the asteroid will pass.”
However, they were sure to warn satellite operators about the passing, providing them with detailed information about the flyby so they could perform whatever corrections they needed to to protect their orbital property. All in all, we should be counting our lucky stars, given the asteroid’s mass and size. Were it to have landed on Earth, it would have been an extinction-level-event the likes of which has not been seen since the age of the dinosaurs.
In related news, NASA was quick to dispel notions that this asteroid was in any way related the recent arrival of the meteor above the Urals in Russia. In a statement issued earlier today, they said the following:
“According to NASA scientists, the trajectory of the Russia meteor was significantly different than the trajectory of the asteroid 2012 DA14, making it a completely unrelated object. Information is still being collected about the Russia meteor and analysis is preliminary at this point. In videos of the meteor, it is seen to pass from left to right in front of the rising sun, which means it was traveling from north to south. Asteroid DA14’s trajectory is in the opposite direction, from south to north.”
Good news! We’re not witnessing the End of Days just yet. Take that Apocalyptics! Don’t you people get tired of being wrong? (fingers crossed!)