Earth Faces Close Encounter with 50-Metre Asteroid
By Timur Moon | February 9, 2013 11:36 PM EST
A 50-metre asteroid will pass closer to the Earth than any comparably sized object for 15 years, according to scientists at Nasa.
In the closest near-miss in years, the asteroid - known as 2012 DA 14 - is forecast to pass Earth at a distance of 17,000 miles at 7.26pm on 15 February, travelling through the sky at approximately eight miles per second.
Asteroids the size of DA14 strike Earth roughly once every 1,200 years, said Nasa astronomer Donald Yeomans.
"For objects this size, this is the closest predicted encounter we're aware of," said Yeomans, adding: "No Earth impact is possible."
DA14 was discovered last year by amateur astronomers in Spain. Had it been set on a collision course with Earth, it would strike the planet with the force of around 2.4million tonnes of dynamite, scientists estimated.
Nasa's early warning system tracks all near-Earth objects sized above 1km in diameter.
"Basketball-size objects come in daily," said Yeomans. "Volkswagen-sized objects come in every couple of weeks. As you get to larger and larger sizes, the number of objects out there is less and less, so the frequency of hits goes down."
Lindley Johnson, head of the Near-Earth Object Observations Programme at Nasa headquarters in Washington DC, added: "Although they woudn't cause a global catastrophe if they impact the Earth, they still do a lot of regional destruction."
The planet's last direct hit occurred in 1908, when a comet exploded over Siberia, destroying 80 million trees over 830 square miles.
About 60 million years ago, a six-mile-wide asteroid smashed into the Yucatán peninsular in Mexico, killing most of the planet's plant and animal life, including the then dominant dinosaurs.
To report problems or to leave feedback about this article, e-mail:
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- In Photos, Typhoon Rammasun Blasts the Philippines
- Ellen DeGeneres Caught Cheating with Mutual Friend Before Portia de Rossi’s Rehab – Reports [PHOTOS]
- Flight MH17 Attack: Russians Claim 'Putin A Terrorist,' Memorial at Dutch Embassy Overflows [PHOTOS]
- Malaysia Airlines MH17: Vital Black Boxes Finally Land in Hands of Malaysian Authorities, Rebels Announce Ceasefire (PHOTOS/VIDEOS)
Join the Conversation
- HIV Cure: First Effective Cure to Have Long-Term Remission; 3 Factors to Check on Inactive Virus
- Coming Soon: AntiViral Gel in Condoms to Kill HIV Virus
- Melbourne Man Gives Up Sex For a Year; Donates £50,000 in Charity
- FDA Prioritises Review of ‘Abuse-Deterrent’ Painkiller
- Tree of 40 Fruit: A Tree That Produces 40 Fruits in New York
- Google Nexus 8 Release Date Soon Along with 2 More HTC Android Tablets – Reports
- Windows Phone 8.1 Update Rollout: 20 Nokia Lumia Phones Eligible and 13 New Features to be Added
- Moto 360 Price Speculations, Key Features, Strategic Release Date, Design: A Watch That is More Than Just Time
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Apps Leak Online, Five Fresh Features to Expect from the Android Smartphone
- Three New Moto G Successors Spotted in FCC Document Dubbed Moto G2, Moto M and More --Reports
- Sony PlayStation 4 Outsells a Resurgent Xbox One in June
- Killer Xiaomi Mi4 at $369 Likely to Come With 5.0-Inch Display, Snapdragon 801 Processor, 3GB RAM and More