A fast-moving space rock called 2012 DA14, will pass about 17,200 miles from Earth’s surface on Feb. 15. It’s only about 150 feet across, so astronomers say will not likely see it passing overhead, but it will be closer than the communications satellites that ring the planet, 22,000 miles away.
NASA scientists have calculated the orbit of 2012 DA14, and they say claim are very sure the 150 foot asteroid will miss Earth. They point out that there are dust-sized pieces of debris plowing harmlessly into the atmosphere all the time; we see some of them as shooting stars at night.
Impacts like the one that may have wiped out the dinosaurs, some 65 million years ago, are separated by tens of millions of years. That event was tens of millions of years ago.
“But it has happened and it can happen again,” said Humberto Campins of the University of Central Florida. “So as a species it is important we learn all we can about asteroids in case we have to deflect one. And there are other reasons for us to investigate. Asteroids could provide precious resources both to Earth and to space travelers, and they hold secrets to how our planet and life on it formed.”
IN 1908, a 330-foot meteor exploded in the atmosphere above the Tunguska River in Siberia, with an impact 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The force was enough to destroy an area the size of San Francisco. Of course, that’s just a theory. Others believe it was scientist/tinkerer/genius Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower experiment gone wrong.
“Once we find an asteroid,” Edward T. Lu, a physicist and former astronaut who flew two space shuttle missions and spent six months on the International Space Station, 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.”
“For every one we know about, there are about 100 more we don’t know about,” Lu said. “We have to find the other 99.”