East Hawaii News

NASA to Stream Information on Friday’s Asteroid Flyby

February 13, 2013, 6:04 PM HST
* Updated February 13, 6:06 PM
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A small asteroid that will fly close to — but safely — near Earth on Friday will provide a rare opportunity to study near-Earth objects, scientists from NASA said today.

NASA Television will provide streaming commentary on the flyby as well as real-time animation of the event beginning at 9 a.m. Hawaii time. That will be available here or here.

The asteroid named 2012 DA14 will be closest to our planet at about 9:25 a.m. At that point it will be about 17,150 miles above the Earth’s surface, closer than the geosynchronous ring where weather and communications satellites are located.

NASA said there is very little chance that asteroid 2012 DA14 will strike a satellite as it will pass between those in geoynchronous orbits about 22,245 miles from Earth, and the large concentration of satellites orbiting much closer.

The latter includes the International Space Station which orbits at an altitude of 240 miles.

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The asteroid is estimated to be about 150 feet across with a mass of about 143,000 tons. It will be traveling at about 17,450 mph, or 4.8 miles per second, when it is closest to Earth.

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The asteroid was discovered by astronomers in Spain on Feb. 23, 2012, when it was about 2.7 million miles away.

Scientists estimate that an asteroid of this size flies close to Earth about every 40 years and impacts the planet about once every 1,200 years.

If an asteroid of this size were to hit the Earth it would release approximately 2.5 megatons of energy in the atmosphere and likely cause regional devastation. Scientists would compare it to the slightly smaller asteroid that struck Siberia in 1908, flattening an estimated 750 square miles of forest.

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During the closest approach, the asteroid may be visible, weather permitting, from parts of Europe, Africa and Asia for viewers with strong binoculars or a telescope.

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