February 15, 2013

Friday's Asteroid will Miss Satellites, Earth but Captures Curiosity of Earthlings


The asteroid that is expected to come close to Earth on Friday – but is a near-miss as far as a collision is concerned – has gotten a lot of attention from those of us on Earth.

There was media interest on the asteroid throughout this week, and much more since a meteorite crashed into Russia's Ural Mountains on Friday, leading to some 1,000 people getting injured.

The reason for meteorite falling is not connected to the asteroid, scientists say.

The asteroid measures 150-feet in width. It is called asteroid 2012 DA14. The asteroid is expected to be closest to Earth at 2:24 p.m. (EST) – at a distance of about 17,200 miles – which is something of a record.

It can be viewed online. NASA will show two views of the asteroid on the Web. One NASA site can be accessed by clicking here or another here.

“No one on Earth is in danger, nor will any of our satellites be hurt or damaged," Jim Green, director of NASA's planetary science division, said in a video statement. It will pass near but not collide with communications satellites in space.

"We're going to use our radars to bounce radio waves off this asteroid, watch it spin, look at the reflections and understand its size, its shape and perhaps even a little bit about what it's made of," Green added.

Some people on the planet may be able to see the asteroid with at least binoculars or a small telescope. It will appear as a “point of light streaking across the sky at a rate of 0.8 degrees per minute,” according to Space.com. “The asteroid will be extremely faint and will be moving very rapidly across the sky, making it hard to track in telescopes.”

In addition to NASA TV, the asteroid can be watched online through images provided by Europe’s Virtual Telescope Project and the Bareket Observatory in Israel. Other online video is available from the Planetary Society website.

NASA Television will provide commentary starting at 2 p.m. EST on Friday about the asteroid. Images of the asteroid from astronomers in Australia and Europe are scheduled to be shown at about noon EST on another NASA website.

The websites will be useful for curious observers.

"This asteroid will be slightly too small to appear to the unaided eye," astronomer Bob Berman told Space.com. "And although simple binoculars could theoretically see it, its rapid motion will make locating this asteroid a major challenge for all but a small coterie of dedicated, serious astronomers with good star charts and a clock providing the absolutely correct time."

Asteroids similar in size to this one come close to Earth every 40 years, but only strike Earth once in 1,200 years, Space.com reported.




Edited by Brooke Neuman



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