There’s no danger of a collision. But asteroid 2012 DA14 will sweep very close to Earth on February 15, 2013. The video below, from NASA’s ScienceCast, explains more.
This asteroid – discovered just last year – is about half the size of an American football field. It’ll fly closer to Earth than geosynchronous satellites, which orbit about 42,000 kilometers (26,000 miles) up. This asteroid flyby is record-setting in the sense that – since astronomers began regular searches for near-Earth asteroids in the 1990s – they have not seen an object so big come so close to Earth.
Yet astronomers estimate that an asteroid the size of 2012 DA14 flies past Earth, on average, every 40 years. Near-Earth asteroids are thought to strike our planet only once in about 1,200 years or so. When did it happen last? An object of about this size exploded in the atmosphere above Siberia in 1908, killing reindeer and leveling hundreds of kilometers of forest. Researchers are still studying this Tunguska event for clues to the impacting object.
By the way, the impact of an asteroid the size of 2012 DA14 – about 50 meters wide – would not destroy Earth. But it would create a large crater, about the size of Meteor Crater in Arizona.
Bottom line: 2012 DA14 will not collide with Earth, but it will sweep close in mid-February 2013.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.