Fri, 15 Feb 2013 04:45:00 GMT | By Reuters

Asteroid to pass close by Earth tonight

The non-profit Space Data Association, which tracks satellites for potential collisions, analyzed the asteroid's projected path and determined no spacecraft would be in its way


Asteroid to pass close by Earth tonight (© Reuters)

Boston: A newly discovered asteroid about half the size of a football field will pass nearer to Earth than any other known object of its size tonight, giving scientists a rare opportunity for close-up observations without launching a probe.

At its closest approach, which will occur at 1924 GMT or 0055 IST, the asteroid will pass about 17,200 miles (27,520 km) above the planet traveling at 8 miles (13 km) per second, bringing it nearer than the networks of television and weather satellites that ring the planet.

Although Asteroid 2012 DA14 is the largest known object of its size to pass this close, scientists say there is no chance of an impact, this week or in the foreseeable future. Currently, DA14 matches Earth's year-long orbit around the sun, but after Friday's encounter its flight path will change, said astronomer Donald Yeomans, with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"The close approach will perturb its orbit so that actually instead of having an orbital period of one year, it'll lose a couple of months," Yeomans said. "The Earth is going to put this one in an orbit that is considerably safer," he said.

(Continued)
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