Giant asteroid set to give Earth a 'record-setting close shave'
Asteroid weighing 130,000 tonnes to pass planet on 15 February close enough to strike a satellite
AN ASTEROID weighing 130,000 tonnes will give Earth a "record-setting close shave" on 15 February as it shoots past the planet within the orbit of many satellites.
Experts say that asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass our planet at a range of 17,200 miles, a "distance that lies inside the orbit of many of our communication satellites", says The Times. It may sound like a wide margin, but it's a "hair's breadth encounter on the astronomical scale", reports Digital Journal.
"This is a record-setting close approach," NASA said in a statement. "Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we've never seen an object this big get so close to Earth."
Sadly, anyone hoping to improve their chances of romance on Valentine's Day by claiming 14 February may be humankind's last hurrah, will be disappointed, says The Times. Scientists say the asteroid, which was discovered a year ago and is travelling at five miles per second, will definitely not strike the Earth.
Even so, it is a near miss of sorts. NASA scientists say other asteroids have flown closer to the earth, but they "were smaller" and on average an object of this size only gets this close to the Earth about once every 40 years. Objects the size of 2012 DA14 - which is believed to be about 45 metres wide - strike the earth about once every 1,200 years.
NBC says if an asteroid this size did hit the planet it wouldn't be "Earth-destroying", but it would be devastating to a small city. It has been calculated it would produce an impact equivalent to 2.4 megatons of TNT.
2012 DA14 will be visible using "small telescopes and solidly mounted binoculars" on 15 February. But it will be moving across the sky so quickly only "the most experienced amateur astronomers" are likely to get a glimpse of it.