Today’s the day to duck

This is the day (Friday) that the asteroid we blogged about earlier will be passing the earth closer than the orbit of many of our satellites.  The rock, the size of half a football field travelling 8 times the speed of a rifle bullet, will be visible from Europe, much of Asia, and Australia, but not the United States.

From the London Guardian:

Sky watchers will have the chance to see an asteroid big enough to destroy London narrowly miss the Earth on Friday.

Scientists are sure there is no chance of the 150ft-wide space rock hitting the planet. But it could come as close as 17,200 miles – placing it within the orbits of more than 100 telecommunication and weather satellites.

The asteroid, 2012 DA14, has been closely tracked since its discovery by a Spanish observatory a year ago. It is predicted to reach its nearest point to Earth at around 7.30pm GMT on Friday [that is, 2:30 p.m. ET].

Given clear skies, it should be possible to track the rock climbing in the north-eastern sky from anywhere in the UK.

DA14 will take two hours to travel between the constellations of Leo and the Plough from 8pm GMT.

Robin Scagell, vice-president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, said: “It will be possible to see it if you know where to look, but just waving your binoculars in the right general direction isn’t going to work.

“The asteroid will be a faint dot of light moving at a steady rate between the stars. It’ll be thousands of times fainter than Jupiter and 250 times fainter than the stars of the Plough. . . .

“It’s not easy, but you will have the thrill of knowing you are seeing a little object in space the size of an office block.”

DA14 will climb steeply from a point just below Leo, growing fainter as it travels across the sky. At the point it reaches the handle of the Plough, it will be 35 degrees above the horizon – equivalent to three stacked fists an arm’s length away.

DA14 belongs to a dangerous family of near-Earth objects (NEOs) that are small enough to be missed but large enough to cause serious damage.

It was detected in February last year by La Sagra Observatory in southern Spain as it fell under the spotlight of the Sun’s rays.

Travelling at between 12,427mph (20,000kph) and 18,641mph (30,000kph) – around five miles (8km) a second, or eight times the speed of a rifle bullet – the asteroid will fly inside the orbits of high geostationary satellites some 22,000 miles (35,406km) above the Earth.

via Asteroid 2012 DA14 fly-by: No chance of impact but a close call | Science |

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  • tODD

    Well now I’ve learned two things from all this.

    First, that (some artificial) satellites are much further from the Earth than I’d imagined. I honestly had no clue that anything could fly between the Earth and the our communications satellites and still be guaranteed not to hit us.

    Also, apparently the British refer to the Big Dipper as “the Plough”. Did not know that.

  • Tom Hering

    A meteor estimated at 10 tons exploded over the Ural mountains this morning, damaging buildings and injuring 500 people.

  • Joe

    I told you so,
    H. Penny

  • kerner
  • Jon

    Duck, indeed.
    Not surprisingly, those rocks tend to travel in packs. Meteor showers right?
    Here we are keeping our eyes on the big one that we can see. But what about all those other smaller fellow travelers?
    As Tom pointed out, seems one of the pack has strayed a bit off course perhaps?
    Didn’t see that one coming, now did we?
    And it was just a 10 ton’er.

  • Grace


     ‏  ‏ CNN just reported:

    “An asteroid will make its closest pass by Earth at around 2:24 pm ET, flying about 17,200 miles above Earth’s surface. It’s estimated to be about 150 feet (45 meters) across with an estimated mass of 130,000 metric tons.

    Experts say it won’t hit the planet, but its flyby is the closest ever predicted for an object this large, according to NASA. The asteroid, called 2012 DA14, will fly between Earth and the satellites that ring the planet 22,200 miles up.

    Scientists think there may be 500,000 asteroids the size of 2012 DA14, but less than 1% have been located.”


  • Cattail

    Looks like it has now passed by–I watched it (just a streak of light) on NASA’s JPL feed. The view was from Australia.

  • Dennis

    FYI. Communication and weather satellites are in geosynchronous orbit at 22,000 nautical miles or about 25,000 highway miles. GPS are about 600 miles out.