Bored of all the valentines day hype? Well here’s something else to think about – an asteroid that goes by the catchy name of ‘2012 DA14’ is going to come pretty close (relatively) to Earth. There’s no cause for alarm, as it does not pose any immediate danger, at least not to Earth. It will be at it’s closest on the 15th February, passing at about 17,200 miles from Earth. Unfortunately, despite the relatively close proximity, it won’t be visible to the naked eye, but it may be visible through a decent pair of binoculars, or obviously a telescope. In the meantime there’s an animation below.
The interesting thing about this asteroid though, is that although 17,200 miles may sound like a lot, it’s actually well within the orbit of our Moon (see funky, retro-looking trajectory diagram), and it will pass 5,000 miles closer to Earth than some high-orbiting satellites. This means that there is a real chance that it could potentially take out weather, communication or GPS geosynchronous satellites if they got in the way, although I’m sure scientists have worked out if anything is in danger of being hit already. And incase you were wondering, it’s about 45 meters across and has a mass of roughly 130,000 metric tons.
There were some rumours that it may be on a collision course for Earth in 2020, but NASA has since ruled out even the remote possibility that it would collide with Earth in 2020. After 2020 though, the picture isn’t so clear, which is why 2012 DA14 will be receiving a lot of attention over the next couple of days in order to establish it’s trajectory more accurately. Even if an asteroid of this size did collide with Earth, it would not be an apocalyptic, world-destroying event, although it would be powerful enough to wipe out a city, but seeing as the majority of the Earth is covered by oceans, that’s where it would most likely impact. So, no there’s no imminent impact, but it’s still a sobering thought.