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Asteroid 2012 DA14's Friday Flyby

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Talk about an eventful Friday night! Tomorrow night, a small asteroid will travel nearer Earth than any astronomers have identified beforehand. “It’s the closest that we’ve seen ahead of time,” says Denton S. Ebel, curator in the Division of Physical Sciences (Earth and Planetary Sciences). 

For more about the asteroid flyby, participate in a live Twitter chat with Dr. Ebel, this Friday, February 15, at noon ET. Post your questions here or use hashtag #asteroidchat on Twitter.

The Moon is nearly 240,000 miles from Earth, but this asteroid, called 2012 DA14,  will travel as close as about 17,200 miles from the planet, over Indonesia. The GIF below was created in 2012, after the asteroid was first observed moving across the sky.

GIF Asteroid 2012 DA14

La Sagra Sky Survey


 At about 45 meters (150 feet) in diameter, asteroid 2012 DA14 is larger than the astronomers’ estimates of the asteroid that created Meteor Crater in Arizona, notes EbelMeteor Crater was formed by an impact thousands of years ago; the crater is about four-fifths of a mile across.

 

Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater

NASA Earth Observatory


Most asteroids orbit the Sun in the belt between Mars and Jupiter, but others, called near-Earth asteroids, travel in orbits that come closer to our own. Astronomers have tracked about 9,600 of these so far, including asteroid 2012 DA14

Asteroid 2012 DA14

NASA/JPL-Caltech


Researchers estimate there are about 500,000 such asteroids, but many have not yet been observed in part because they are small and dark.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 won’t be visible to the naked eye, but you can watch the asteroid’s flyby live via telescope feed from Marshall Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, Alabama, from 9 pm to midnight ET.

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