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: