Asteroid 2012 DA14 will fly by Earth on Feb. 15 in a "record-setting close approach," just 17,200 miles above the planet's surface, says NASA. The report came barely three weeks after another near-Earth asteroid had whizzed past the planet. Only this time, the space agency is certain the asteroid will be harmless.
"Mayan calendar doomsday" believers typically get anxious when asteroid reports surface, but NASA had set the record straight that Asteroid 2012 DA14 will not impact Earth.
When the flyby of asteroid Apophis was being anticipated by scientists early this month, experts wanted to rule out the possibility of the asteroid making an impact on Earth. Initial data showed a 2036 impact had a small chance of happening. Researchers heaved a sigh of relief when the latest data revealed Apophis no longer posed any risk on the planet in the coming years.
This time, NASA already has sufficient information on the orbit of the asteroid called, "2012 DA14." Its orbit does not place Earth at risk. But it will be closer to the planet than many man-made satellites. Observers with backyard telescopes will be able to see the space object.
"2012 DA14 will definitely not hit Earth," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at JPL. "The orbit of the asteroid is known well enough to rule out an impact."
The near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 measures about 50 meters wide. Yeomans noted a similar-sized object had impacted Earth and formed the mile wide Meteor Crater in Arizona about 50,000 years ago. But NASA stressed 2012 DA14 will not hit Earth.
"The odds of an impact with a satellite are extremely remote," Yeoman said, meaning the asteroid's orbit is supposed to be clear of any man-made object, as well.
VIDEO: Record-Setting Asteroid Flyby (ScienceAtNASA)
"I wonder how many superstitious idiots that were afraid of the Mayan Apocalypse know about DA14? Ignorance is not only bliss,but sadly popular," reads one comment on YouTube.
"Not being paranoid here, merely curious. What would be the effect if 2012= DA14 were to strike the earth, land in the ocean? I imagine tidal waves of some sort," reads another comment.