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Asteroid ‘Close Shave’ with Earth

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A 150 foot wide asteroid is due to fly past the Earth today and is the largest one that’s been ever detected this close to the planet.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is travelling at 5 miles per second and will be visible from parts of Europe and Africa, at around 19:24 GMT.

There’s no chance of it hitting the Earth and will miss us by around 17,230 miles.

In cosmic terms, the distance is incredibly small, Prof. Scott Hubbard of Stanford University, a former NASA manager, calls it a close shave:

“You say 17,000 miles, that is huge. But remember all of those satellites out there that give us our global positioning, that tell our iPhones where we are, those are at 22,000 miles, so it is going to pass between Earth and the satellites that give us Direct TV every day. That’s a close shave.”

The asteroid’s trajectory will put it an extra 5,000 miles closer, for some perspective, the moon is 238,607 miles from Earth.

According to NASA there’s little danger of satellites being damaged, they released this statement:

“There is very little chance that asteroid 2012 DA14 will impact a satellite or spacecraft. Because the asteroid is approaching from below Earth, it will pass between the outer constellation of satellites located in geosynchronous orbit (22,245 miles/35,800 kilometers) and the large concentration of satellites orbiting much closer to Earth. (The International Space Station, for example, orbits at the close-in altitude of 240 miles/386 kilometers.). There are almost no satellites orbiting at the distance at which the asteroid will pass.”

Dwayne Brown, a spokesman for Nasa’s science department, believes the event is a unique opportunity that might help us learn how to protect Earth from collisions in the future:

“This can tell us about asteroid trajectories, how the Sun affects them, and their origin in nature. If we can better understand the approach, that helps us with an asteroid on collision course. You can nudge it onto another course with even a light touch.”

 

 

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