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by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Feb 06, 2013
Small near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass very close to Earth on February 15, so close that it will pass inside the ring of geosynchronous weather and communications satellites.
NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office can accurately predict the asteroid's path with the observations obtained, and it is therefore known that there is no chance that the asteroid might be on a collision course with Earth.
Nevertheless, the flyby will provide a unique opportunity for researchers to study a near-Earth object up close. Here are the facts about the safe flyby of Earth of asteroid 2012 DA14 -- a record close approach for a known object of this size.
Q: What is asteroid DA14
Q: What date and what time will the asteroid be closest to Earth?
At the time of closest approach, the asteroid will be over the eastern Indian Ocean, off Sumatra -- approx. latitude: -6 deg South. / longitude: 97.5 deg East.
Q: How far away will asteroid 2012 DA14 be at time of closest approach?
Q: Could asteroid DA14 impact Earth?
The asteroid's orbit around the sun is roughly similar to that of Earth, and it makes relatively close approaches to our planet's orbit twice per orbit. But, the 2013 flyby is by far the closest the asteroid will approach our planet for many decades. The next notable close approach to Earth will be on February 16, 2046, when the asteroid will pass no closer than 620,000 miles (1,000,000,000 kilometers) from the center-point of Earth.
Q: What makes 2012 DA14 special?
Q: How long will asteroid 2012 DA14 be within the Earth/moon system?
Q: Is there a chance that asteroid 2012 DA14 could be eclipsed by Earth?
Q: How big is asteroid 2012 DA14?
Q: How fast will the asteroid be traveling at closest approach?
Q: Who discovered asteroid DA14?
Q: How many asteroids are out there similar in size to asteroid DA14?
Q: How many times do asteroids the size of DA14 fly this close?
Q: Is there a chance that asteroid DA14 will collide with one or more satellites?
Q: What will asteroid DA14's close pass do to Earth's rotation/tides/fault lines/etc.
Q: What would happen if DA14 were to impact Earth?
A comparison to the impact potential of an asteroid the size of 2012 DA14 could be made to the impact of a near-Earth object that occurred in 1908 in Tuguska, Siberia. Known in the asteroid community as the "Tunguska Event," this impact of an asteroid just slightly smaller than 2012 DA14 (approximately 100 - 130 feet/30-40 meters across) is believed to have flattened about 750 square miles (1,200 square kilometers) of forest in and around the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia.
Q: Can I see the asteroid during its close approach?
During the closest approach, and dependant on local weather, the asteroid will be visible from parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. The asteroid will appear to be moving relatively quickly as it crosses the sky from the south to the north.
Q: What is NASA doing about asteroid 2012 DA14?
Q: What is NASA doing about Near-Earth Objects?
The NASA Near Earth Object Observation (NEOO) Program detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The network of projects supported by this program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.
All observations from observatories worldwide are sent to the NASA funded Minor Planet Center, operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for the International Astronomical Union, where they are combined to maintain the database on all known asteroids and comets in our solar system. The Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL manages the technical and scientific activities for NASA's Near-Earth Object Program of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The NEO Program Office performs more precise orbit determination on the objects, and predicts whether any will become an impact hazard to the Earth, or any other planet in the solar system. The NEOO Program also performs orbit analysis on the discovered Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) at Goddard Space Flight Center to determine which ones may become good robotic or human spaceflight destinations in the near future.
NASA's 70-meter (230-foot) Goldstone antenna, located about 35 miles north of Barstow on the Ft. Irwin Military Base, is part of NASA's Deep Space network. The antenna is one of only two facilities capable of imaging asteroids with radar. The other is the National Science Foundation's 1,000-foot-diameter (305 meters) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The capabilities of the two instruments are complementary, and NASA's NEOO Program supports the radar capability at both these facilities.
The Arecibo radar is about 20 times more sensitive, can see about one-third of the sky, and can detect asteroids about twice as far away. Goldstone is fully steerable, can see about 80 percent of the sky, can track objects several times longer per day, and can image asteroids at finer spatial resolution. JPL manages the Goldstone Solar System Radar and the Deep Space Network for NASA.
NASA has also started serveral basic research and technology demonstration projects to better understand the nature of asteroids and how they might best be deflected from an Earth impacting trajectory, or to develop the space technology required to do this.
This development work includes improved Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) systems that could push or pull an asteroid for an extended time, and close proximity operations and grappling mechanisms to work in and around asteroids and manipulate their surfaces. This technology will also be useful for future robotic and human missions to these objects, and even potentially resource mining operations.
Q: What current/future NASA missions are targeting asteroids and near-Earth objects?
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology
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