Category Archives: asteroid 2012DA14

It’s Asteroid Day

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is due to pass by the earth today. The most interesting thing about this asteroid is how close it will come to hitting our little planet. It will pass between the earth and the satellites we have put in orbit around the earth. It will be only 17,150 miles above the earth at its closest point of approach. This morning we learned that while we are waiting for the asteroid and breathing a sigh at the near miss,  unforeseen meteorites exploded over Siberia, stole 2012 DA14’s thunder (literally) and injured at least 500 people with sonic booms that broke windows and shook up buildings.

We don’t always remember that we are spinning around and hurtling through space in concert with many other space objects because it makes us dizzy and distracts us from our greatest gift, our lives, but we are occasionally reminded that we are tiny in the grand scheme of things and very, very vulnerable. I have no personal pictures of the asteroid that is paying us a visit today and I believe most of what we have seen on the internet are artistic renderings of our friendly neighborhood space rock. So I stole some info about the flyby from CNN and I want to make sure they get credit for their contribution. I call this particular theft, research, but since it involves copying pictures which may or may not belong in the public domain I ask for dispensation in advance. I find all of the things that happen in space intensely interesting, although I have no desire to go there and the mathematics that must be conquered by astronomers and astrophysicists is apparently beyond the capacity of my brain.

“An asteroid is coming! But don’t panic. NASA says Asteroid 2012 DA 14 will make a record-close pass by Earth on February 15, but it won’t hit us. Most asteroids are made of rocks, but some are metal. They orbit mostly between Jupiter and Mars in the main asteroid belt. Scientists estimate there are tens of thousands of asteroids and when they get close to our planet, they are called near-Earth objects.”
“This graphic shows Asteroid 2012 DA 14’s predicted path as it passes closest to Earth on February 15 at 2:24 pm ET. It will fly 17,200 miles above Earth’s surface and inside the ring of weather and communications satellites. The asteroid is about 150 feet (45 meters) in diameter. It is heading toward Earth at 17,450 mph.”

“Asteroids have hit Earth many times. It’s hard to get an exact count because erosion has wiped away much of the evidence. The mile-wide Meteor Crater in Arizona, seen above, was created by a small asteroid that hit about 50,000 years ago, NASA says. Other famous impact craters on Earth include Manicouagan in Quebec, Canada; Ries Crater in Germany, and Chicxulub on the Yucatan coast in Mexico.”
“NASA scientists say the impact of an asteroid or comet several hundred million years ago created the Aorounga crater in the Sahara Desert of northern Chad. The crater has a diameter of about 10.5 miles (17 kilometers). This image was taken by the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1994.”

“What else is up there? Is anyone watching? NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program is trying to track down all asteroids and comets that could threaten Earth. NASA says 9,672 near-Earth objects have been discovered as of February 5, 2013. Of these, 1.374 have been classified as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids, or objects that could one day threaten Earth.”
“One of the top asteroid-tracking scientists is Don Yeomans at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by the California Institute of Technology. Yeomans says every day, “Earth is pummeled by more than 100 tons of material that spewed off asteroids and comets.” Fortunately, most of the asteroid trash is tiny and it burns up when it hits the atmosphere, creating meteors, or shooting stars. Yeomans says it’s very rare for big chunks of space to hit Earth’s surface. Those chunks are called meteorites. (Ironically, that is exactly what happened in Siberia today.)”

This link will take you to the entire slide show on CNN:

Ground Control to Major Tom/Asteroids 

Romance your honey on February 14, 2013, and face annihilation from space on February 15, 2012. OK, I exaggerate. But another of those pesky asteroids is due to pass by Earth. This poor asteroid is so ordinary that it is only known as 2012DA14, no heroic Greek or Roman name for this space rock. It is about the size, say those in the know, of two train cars. The scariest thing about this asteroid is that it will pass between the Earth and the Moon and that just doesn’t sound good. Scientists are not at all worried that they are wrong about the orbit, but they are worried that the asteroid may take out some of our satellites as it will cross their path of orbit twice. Even so, space is so, well, spacious that it is unlikely that any satellites will bite the dust.

Rocks that hurtle through space, or asteroids, as we have elevated them, are worrisome. Meteors and asteroids have hit Earth in the past, although no terribly dramatic examples have happened recently, thank you universe.

Here’s what Gina Sunseri had to say on on this date (Jan. 8, 2013):

Weekly, sometimes daily, an asteroid zips close enough to the planet to show up on NASA’s Near Earth Object List. The 99942 Apophis asteroid was once thought to be the one that threatened the Earth most, the one that could smash into the fragile planet. But scientists have had enough time to study Apophis to know it isn’t a serious threat.
Is the possibility of an asteroid hitting the Earth science fiction or science fact?
Dr. Edward T. Lu might seem like an unlikely asteroid hunter. He’s a physicist and former astronaut. For skeptics who think asteroid impacts are science fiction, he said, check what happened in Siberia in 1908.
A 330-foot meteor exploded in the atmosphere above the Tunguska River with an impact 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that detonated on Hiroshima. The force in Siberia destroyed an area the size San Francisco.
Lu now heads the non- profit B612 Foundation, a group dedicated to hunting down asteroids before they hit Earth. B612 wants to launch the first privately funded deep-space mission: Sentinel, a space telescope to orbit the sun and map the inner Solar System in search of asteroids that smash into Earth.
The goal, Lu says, is to see what’s out there. Before it hits Earth.
The problem, he said, isn’t the asteroids that hunters know about, but those they don’t know about. “For everyone we know about, there are about 100 more we don’t know about,” he said. “We have to find the other 99.”
To do that, Sentinel will do what no government has funded yet, a dedicated long-term search with a unique infrared space telescope constantly scanning space for threats, asteroids large and small.
“Once we find an asteroid,” Lu said, “it is possible for us to predict its trajectory. We know the government wants to discover asteroids big enough to wipe out the planet but we also want to find those that could wipe out a city the size of New York, or Hong Kong, or Houston.”
The plan is to launch Sentinel in five years on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, orbit for five years and gather information about asteroids that would give governments time to take action.
What kind of action? Scientists sometimes talk about the three Ds: detect, deflect and destroy. Lu Scoffs at the notion of blowing up an asteroid in space. It creates more space debris. Deflection is much more logical.

There’s a bit more. Follow the link: